John Ball Zoo

Nature Play

John Ball Zoo wants to make it easier for you to get outside with your family and enjoy playing together in nature! Learn about local places to visit here in West Michigan and get ideas for activities the whole family will enjoy! 

Nature Play Club

John Ball Zoo is one of 44 institutions to receive a grant from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Disney Conservation Fund to establish or enhance family-centered nature experiences. We are honored to receive this grant and are launching a Family Nature Club for the Zoo’s immediate neighborhood. 

Follow us on Facebook at JBZ Family Nature Club

Places to Go    

In addition to your own backyard and neighborhood check out these great West Michigan spots to enjoy a stroll through the woods, explore a new stream or even spot wildlife up close.

Nature Centers - expand your knowledge about local flora and fauna, take a class or explore a trail
Blandford Nature Center, Grand Rapids, MI -
Wittenbach/Wege Environmental Center - Lowell, MI -
Trails - find great biking and walking trails near you
West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition -

Parks - West Michigan has great county and city parks
Kent County Parks -
Grand Rapids -

Things to Do

Here are some fun ideas to get the creative juices flowing for outdoor play.

Scavenger Hunt - Create a list of natural items that may be found outside. Encourage everyone to keep their eye out for the items while on a hike. Be specific with things like; tree with needles, feather, something yellow, a nest. Have the kids check items off the list along the way. 

Sit Spot - Find a spot in your backyard or local park that you can visit often. Start by spending 5 or 10 minutes sitting quietly and observing the world around, you could gradually work up to spending longer times at the spot or continue to enjoy short visits. This is a great time to start a nature journal, writing down thoughts and observations or sketching what you see. It won't take long to identify the animals living in your area. It can also be fun watching your space as it changes with the seasons.

Cloud Watch - Enjoy a cloudy day. Sit back and let your imagination run wild. Clouds come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Create stories with your children about the different shapes you see.