Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape

Early Learning Playscape

Nestled in a replica of a wooden fort, the Harvard Early Learning Playscape is designed for children ages 2 through 7 to explore the outdoors in a setting created just for them. The Playscape playground and splash pad provide opportunities for early childhood physical, imaginative and social development while promoting increased connections to the natural environment, local history and community engagement.

The early childhood field emphasizes the value of nature to support a young child's curiosity, discovery, and sense of wonder, thereby promoting their growth in all developmental domains.

Admission & Hours:

Access to the Playscape is included in your general museum admission.

Please Note: The water features in the Splash Pad are turned on between May 15 and September 30 and on days that the temperature is above 70 degrees. Water will be shut off during lightning, heavy storms, tornadoes, and for repairs, as needed.

Assumption of Risk 

Please be aware that by using this facility, you are expressly assuming the risk and legal liability and waiving and releasing all claims for injuries, damage or loss which you or your minor child/ward might sustain as a result of use of the Naper Settlement grounds in any and all activities connected with and associated with this facility (including exposure to communicable diseases).

Highlights of the Playscape include:

Splash Pad

  • Splash in the water in Naperville's only splash pad
  • Touch the pump to activate the water for the water trough
  • Activate the water cannon and the ground misters by simply pressing a button


  • Climb up in the blockhouse and slide down the twisting tube slide
  • Look through the telescope and periscope
  • Relay a secret message to a friend through talking tubes

Fort Payne & Trading Post

The Playscape includes a reconstruction of Fort Payne. Naperville's settlers built the original fort during the Blackhawk War of 1832 as a temporary shelter for their small community. The fort was never used during battle. Enthusiastic volunteers constructed a smaller scale replica of Fort Payne at Naper Settlement in 1979.

  • Trade with friends and role play as the owner and/or customer of a trading post

Conestoga Wagon

The Playscape has a replica covered wagon. Covered wagons were the moving vans of the 19th century. Many settlers came to this part of the country in wagons like this one. Often, the wagon would be piled high with all the possessions that a family owned.

  • New access allows for opportunities to investigate aboard the vehicle known as the "moving van of the 1800s"
  • Take a photo to commemorate your visit
  • Play "Pack Your Wagon" and learn what the pioneers brought with them on their journey to the Illinois frontier

Animal Tracks

  • See a variety of animal tracks and "Walk with the Animals"
  • Follow the tracks and guess which animal belongs to each track

Sensory Prairie Garden

  • Experience a variety of plants the early pioneers might have seen on the prairie or planted in their gardens

Activity Cart

  • Fly the Illinois flag and see our state's flower, tree, bird and animal
  • The four seasons of Illinois will be explored and will include plants, animals, weather and people

Little Free Library

Naper Settlement is proud to host one of very few Little Free Libraries in Naperville. Our Little Free Library, decorated with the hands of Camp Naper campers, offers a way for our guests to connect with other community members and share favorite books of all kinds - books that teach, intrigue and engage. The instructions are simple:

  • Take a book: If you see something you would like to read, take it. Check inside to see if there is a note from whoever gave it.
  • Share a book: Return it to any Little Free Library or pass it on to a friend. If you can't bear to part with it, keep it and bring back a different book to share.
  • Return a book: Do your part and keep Little Free Libraries stocked with high-quality books - share your favorite titles. Be a friend of libraries big and small. Pay it forward!

Helpful Information

  • Bring a snack or a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shaded picnic area.
  • Bring a towel to dry off the youngsters after they play in the water and before you explore other exhibits and historic buildings at the museum.
  • Parking is free in the Naper Settlement parking lot on the southwest corner of Webster Street and Porter Avenue and in the City of Naperville's Municipal Lot (weekends only) on the northwest corner of Webster Street and Aurora Avenue.