Location: 9800 Willow Springs Road, Willow Springs
March 1-last Saturday in October 8:00am – 5:00pm
Last Sunday in October-Feb 28 8:00am – 4:00pm
Exhibit buildings open at 9:00 am daily (CLOSED FRIDAYS) and may close up to 1/2 hour before grounds.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Parking: There is a large, free parking lot
Bathrooms: There are men’s and women’s public bathrooms in the Nature Center. There is a changing table.
Nursing: There is no designated nursing area.
Handicapped/stroller accessibility: The Nature Center building is very accessible. Inside the Nature Center there are ramps and the walkways are very open. The walkway from the parking lot to the Nature Center is paved. The paths and trails near the Nature Center are unpaved and there are some inclines, but they are still fairly accessible.
Food/eating area: There is no food available at the Little Red Schoolhouse and picnics are not allowed on the grounds. There are several forest preserves along Willow Springs Road north and south of Little Red Schoolhouse. We picnicked about a mile south before heading to the Little Red Schoolhouse.
– Outdoor – The Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center is surrounded by forest preserves and there are trails for hiking. There is a short path near the Nature Center that is perfect for a short walk with the kids that goes past the pond, bees, and a small shelter overlooking the lake.
– Indoor – Inside there are animals, including birds, fish, spiders, and snakes; interactive displays that teach about animals and nature; and a turtle pond area.
There is also a large children’s play area. The play area includes a table for crafts and coloring, a sensory table, small tents for the kids to play under, and sticks to build a campfire.
We paid: Nothing!
I have fond memories of the Little Red Schoolhouse from my childhood. Back then the Schoolhouse was little, and red, but they recently updated to a much larger (and less red) building.
The new building has some really great stuff: live animals like birds, fish, spiders, snakes and turtles; interactive displays to teach about animals and nature (see the picture of Cooper learning about scat? Fun.); and a huge kids room with a bunch of activities for them to enjoy.
A lot of the interactive displays were a bit out of the kids’ reach. I had to lift Dexter to see most of them, and Cooper could see them, but had to really reach to touch them. There is a ramp walkway down to the fish and pond displays and the kids loved it; there are footprints on the floor and the walkway is divided into different time periods so kids can see the progression of nature from dinosaurs to modern man. There are several windows, at perfect kid height, to look through the wall along the walkway. At the bottom you’ll find fish tanks and turtle pond.
Most of our time inside was spent in the large kids area.Cooper spent some time at the craft table coloring, and Dexter enjoyed the bean bag toss. They stacked up sticks to make a campfire, and poked around at a few other things, but spent most of their time at the sensory table burying and digging up plastic insects.
Afterwards we took a short walk outside on the looping trail that has the Nature Center’s main entrance at one end and the lower level back door at the other end that’s probably the equivalent of a few city blocks. The kids looking in the pond, ran down the hill, (whined all the way up the hill,) and peeked out at the lake at the viewing enclosure.
It was a hot day, so afterwards we headed to The Plush Horse, which is only 5 miles away, for some ice cream.