Explore & Pretend at OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace - 510 Families

Explore & Pretend at OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace

Sponsored by: The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)

With the opening of OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace, the Oakland Museum of California has become even more family-friendly. Little ones have their own dedicated area for exploring– a play-focused learning area designed for children ages two to five, plus their families and caregivers.

OMCA Kids Nature Playspace Tent
Little imaginations can run wild at OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace. | Photo: OMCA

Nature Playspace sparks creativity through play in environments commonly found in and around Oakland. Kids can run up and down a hill, plant their own vegetable garden, drive a train through a wooded forest, or cook a meal in a pretend kitchen as they explore the natural world from a kid’s-eye view. Even the littlest guests can enjoy playtime in the infant area.

There are hands-on areas to build with blocks, make patterns, or examine leaves and feathers. A large fish tank of native species adds is entertaining for animal lovers. Two pillow-filled nooks make a cozy corner for reading a book or snuggling with the many stuffed animals in the space. OMCA built the space to change and grow with various activities over time to keep visits fresh and fun for families.

OMCA Kids Nature Playspace Shadow Box
Discovery and play that’s inspired by local nature | Photo: OMCA

Children can use their imaginations to:

  • go camping in a play tent
  • create farm-to-table meals with felt vegetables and salad fixings
  • fly like a butterfly with available costume wings
  • steer a steam engine past woodland animals at the forest-themed train table
  • swim like a fish through a colorful, lighted tunnel that links to the adjacent museum gallery
  • explore the inside of a log
  • or tell a story with shadow puppets
OMCA Kids Kitchen play
The pretend kitchen and dining area were very popular during our visit | Photo: Maureen Burke

The entire play area is beautifully decorated: the walls feature forest and meadow motifs; a stream runs through the carpet; and illustrations of animals, insects, and birds can be spotted at every turn. Prompts (multilingual!) for caregivers to pose questions and deepen a child’s curiosity are posted along the walls.

The space is made up of several nooks across two rooms and a hallway. It’s manageable to watch multiple children. But be aware there are a few areas to hide away, like the reading nook. The playspace is not closed off with a door or gate. 

OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace is located in the Gallery of Natural Sciences on the lower level. There are benches and cubbies for guests to store belongings or strollers before entering the play area. Adult caregivers can join in play, or sit back and watch from various seats dotted around the playspace.

Nursing areas are also conveniently located in a couple of quiet corners. Restrooms with a changing table are positioned just outside the gallery. Plus, there are several picnic tables outside that are ideal for a post-play snack.

Child at garden in OMCA Kids Nature Playspace
Make patterns or pretend to be a farmer | Photo: Maureen Burke

Best Kid-Friendly Places in Oakland >>

My Visit to OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace

My three-year-old child loved every moment in this indoor playspace. She played for nearly three hours, spending most of the time in the garden, kitchen, and train table sections. The play area is ideal for preschoolers. But, I think even kids a bit older could also have fun playing with a younger sibling or friend. Crawlers will enjoy the hill and tunnels. I think our family will be back for regular visits, especially if the playscape does indeed evolve and feature fresh activities.

OMCA Kids train table
Several children can easily play together at the train table | Photo: Maureen Burke

Plan your visit to OMCA 

Location: 1000 Oak St, Oakland
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm; extended hours on Fridays until 9 pm
Price: Children 12 & under: FREE | Youth 13-17: $7 | Seniors: $11 | Adults: $16

Remember the gardens are free to access with or without your paid admission.

Advance tickets encouraged >>

Thank you again to The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) for sponsoring 510families.com.

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