Ages 3-5 | Nature & Animals

Do you think owls can really turn their heads all the way around?  Come and learn more about owls, hawks and other animals and reptiles at Ernie Miller Nature Center.  Explore the hiking trails, visit the animals and find some great hands-on learning activities.

Before Your Visit:

  • Visit the Ernie Miller website to find out about storytimes or animal encouters that you may want to attend on your visit.
  • If you plan to hike the trails, wear good hiking shoes and bring any needed items (i.e., sweatshirt, sunscreen, etc.).  Many of the trails are stroller-friendly. 

Explore Ernie Miller:

  • As you walk up to the main building, have kids look at the animal prints on the sidewalks.  Can they identify which animal left those tracks?
  • Before entering the main building, visit the homes of the 2 large birds (red tail hawk and owl) that live outside the center.
  • Ask at the front desk for a scavenger hunt sheet - use this as you explore the center.
  • In the lobby, you’ll find some native salamanders and snakes – talk to your kids about the fact that all the animals they see at the center live in our area.
  • Visit the outdoor courtyard in the middle of the main building – you will find some amazing owls.  Facts and info about the owls can be found on the windows of the exhibit.
  • You will find two types of turtles at the center – a soft shell turtle and a hard shell tortoise.  Ask your kids about why each turtle has that type of shell.
  • Kids will also want to visit the large fish tank, and the birding room that overlooks the outdoor feeding area.  They will also find books and nature items to explore in the birding room.

Learn More:

Little Hoot wants to go to bed like his friends, but Mama and Papa say that little owls have to stay awake at night.  Learn all the fun things Little Hoot does to keep from falling asleep!

    Three baby owls wake at night to find their mother is gone -- what are they to do?

    Hold a sea star or horseshoe crab, crawl 'inside' of a fish tank and watch sharks and stingrays swim over your head!  SEA LIFE Aquarium has more than 5,000 sea creatures to see, along with interactive activities, a touch tank and play zone.

    Before Your Visit:

    Explore SEA LIFE in KC:

    • Pick up a Quiz card on your way in to the aquarium and stop at the Quiz stations.
    • Kids will enjoy the indoor waterfall as they view native fish from local rivers.
    • A must-see is the touch tank where kids can hold a sea star, horseshoe crab and sea urchins.
    • Read the walls to the kids - they'll enjoy the fun & interesting facts about fish.
    • Make sure to see some of the 'bubble' tanks where kids can crawl 'into' the tanks to see the fish from a different angle.
    • The Shipwreck Room feels like a scene right out of the movie "Finding Nemo" - kids will love exploring the many tanks in this area.
    • One of the great highlights are the Underwater Tunnels - there is a large one and small one in clownfish room.
    • Stop by the jellyfish tank to see these beautiful creatures. 
    • There's a Kid's tunnel behind tank in Stingray Bay - and glass platform above the tank.  Look for the moray eels and stingrays.
    • Stop at the play zone and sand table at the end of your tour.

    Learn More:

    "Over in the Ocean in a Coral Reef" is a gorgeous look at the animals that live around the reef.  With counting, rhyming and a whole slew of creatures, this is a sure hit with kids!

    Eric Carle's "Mister Seahorse" is beautifully illustrated, enjoyable to read aloud and includes some wonderfully educational information as well.


    Explore More:

    If you enjoyed the aquarium, you'd also like:


    View SEA LIFE Kansas City in a larger map

    Have you ever been face-to-face with a bison?  Or fed a deer?  You can do both at the Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure in south Kansas City.  Come visit deer, elk and bison at Fleming Park.

    Before Your Visit:

    • If your child has never seen a bison, use this coloring page from Kaboose as a fun introduction.
    • Bring some small apples or long carrots (with the green on top) and you can carefully feed the animals through the fence.
    • Bring binoculars – just in case the animals are not at the front of the enclosure.

    • Bring a camera for a great photo opp!

    Explore the Native Hoofed Enclosure:

    • Be patient – depending on the time of day and location of the herd, the bison and elk may be in the back of the enclosure.
    • Try viewing from various places – there’s a parking lot, but you can also walk along the front fence to see if the animals are grazing or resting in the front of the enclosure.

    • Be observant!  During the hot weather, the animals like to hang out in the shade, or near the edges of the trees.  And the enclosure is quite a large area, so keep looking.

    Learn More about Bison:

    • Print an animal card, see a video and learn more about bison at National Geographic Kids.
    • Look for one of these books at your local library:

    Discover More:

    • Visit Missouri Town 1855 which is also located in Fleming Park
    • If you liked the bison & elk, see other great animals at Deanna Rose Farmstead

    View Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure in a larger map

    Visit your favorite farm animals, explore playgrounds, draw on slates at the old schoolhouse or watch 'farmers' milk a cow.  There are also prairie dogs, pony rides and a barn slide.  With so much to do at Deanna Rose, your kids won’t want to leave!

    Before Your Visit:

    • Wear comfortable shoes - you do a lot of walking!
    • Bring water bottles & snacks
    • Bring quarters to buy feed for the animals.
    • Don't forget your camera.
    • Read one of these great books before you visit:


    Explore Deanna Rose Farmstead:

    Pick up a map when you enter the Farmstead.

    • NEW THIS YEAR:  The Educational Pavilion (located near the General Store) will host FREE public programs at 11am, 1pm & 3 pm daily.  Programs will highlight turn-of-the-century farmlife and be interactive for kids.
    • Explore one of 3 kids playground areas.
    • Try the Barn slide and then watch the rabbits hop around their home.
    • Visit your favorite farm animals - there are chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs, goats, horses and many others!
    • Ride the pedal tractors.
    • Visit the chicken coop and feed the chickens.
    • See the turtles and fish in the Koi pond - how many turtles can you count?
    • Watch the prairie dogs dig tunnels.
    • Tour the Dairy Barn to see calves, and milk a pretend cow!  Staff also has milking demos at 9:30 am and 4:30 pm daily.

    Discover More:


    View Deanna Rose Farmstead in a larger map






    Come run through a tunnel covered with vines, read a story in 'tree chairs', play in the Children's Garden and explore a maze!  You can also search for bugs & frogs, watch birds and hike some trails.

    Before Your Visit:

    • Wear walking shoes - some of the trails are mulched.
    • Talk to your kids about the rules - stay on the trails, no climbing rocks & trees, and don't pick the flowers.
    • If you have a hand-held GPS, bring it and do some geocaching.  Here's some tips for kids from Nature Rocks.

    Explore the OP Arboretum:

    • Explore the Children's Garden - bring a book and visit the Story Tree.
    • Climb to the top of the Sky Watch.
    • Take a nice walk around the lake and search out the various waterfalls on the property.
    • Stretch your legs on one of the great nature trails.
    • Visit the new (in progress) Train Garden to see lifesize railroad cars, child-size ticket booth and 3 train systems.
    • The arboretum has it's own GeoArboretum Passport (cost is $1 at the visitor's center).  Bring your hand-held GPS and go on a treasure hunt.

    Learn More:

    Discover More:

    View Overland Park Arboretum in a larger map

    Come visit one of the best nature centers in the Kansas City area!  They have many hands-on activities, turtles, fish, birds, and some other animal friends.  Watch a fun nature movie & read some great books in the preschool area.

    Before Your Visit:

    • You'll probably be walking the trails, so wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket.
    • Pack a snack - there's quite a bit to explore and a fun place to eat.

    Explore Burr Oak Woods:

    • Explore the preschool area to find books and nature artifacts you can touch
    • Put your hand in the holes of the search-and-find boxes to see what you discover
    • Watch the turtles swim and crawl on the rocks
    • See lots of fish in the 3,000 gallon tank
    • Talk a walk on one of the hiking trails and see if you find any animal friends.
    • Have Mom or Dad sign the kids up for one of the cool preschool programs!

    Learn More:

    • Learn about animal tracks, leaves and other great things in this fun activity book from Discover the Forest.
    • Explore nature activities and more with these great books:

    Discover More:

    Visit other great Kansas City nature centers:


    View Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in a larger map

    Lions & Tigers & a Polar Bear, Oh My!  Come out and see some of your favorite animals at the Kansas City Zoo.  You can visit the tropical Rainforest house, climb and explore in Discovery Barn and ride the Endangered Species Carousel.  Or come join the preschool club for some fun learning!

    Before Your Visit:

    • Wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket (especially if you'll be riding the Skyride).
    • Pack a snack and waterbottle to enjoy while touring the zoo.
    • Don't forget your FOTZ card if you're a zoo member.

    Explore the KC Zoo:

    There is so much to see at the zoo!  Here are some recommendations for preschoolers:

    • Ask your kids about their favorite animals - make sure to put them on your list.
    • Visit the Discovery Barn to see the animals, play on the slide and climb in the ant hill!
    • Stop by the Rainforest at the Tropics building.
    • Watch Nikita & Berlin (the polar bears) and the river otters swimming around their exhibits.
    • Visit one of the aviaries to see some colorful birds up close!
    • Ride the carousel (extra cost).

    Learn More:

    Discover More:

    Other places to see animals in Kansas City:

    View Kansas City Zoo in a larger map