Location: 13800 Switzer Road, Overland Park, KS, next to the soccer complex.
Cost: Monday – Thursday, Free; Friday – Sunday, $2 a person, 1 and younger free.
The Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, Kansas, is one of our favorite places to visit. Not only are there animals galore for Peanut and me to feed (an admittedly favorite activity of ours), but they’re open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which makes it possible to visit during the week even if you work until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Better still, it’s free to visit the Farmstead Monday through Thursday, so these late nights also fit well within our budget. They also add new things to the Farmstead every year, so it never gets old to visit, and, as it says in our Passport to Adventure,
The historical setting . . . provides families with an opportunity to explore turn-of-century farm life, interact with animals, and celebrate Kansas heritage.
Almost every time we visit, we head to the right when we enter the grounds and visit the chickens. Chickens are fairly noisy birds: you can hear them clucking and squawking outside in their yard, and you can hear them rustling, clucking, hopping, etc. inside in the walk-through chicken coop. Chickens also, frankly, smell–there is no effort here (nor should there be) to cover up the natural smells of a farm, so you can learn the distinct smell of the chicken coop when visiting here.
After feeding the chickens, we usually loop past the schoolhouse and go to the Dairy Barn. Depending on the time of day, there are demonstrations here: we got to see a cow milked with an automatic milker once. There are also calves living in pens in the center of the barn. We discovered that calves have very soft sides and noses, are pretty friendly, and have surprisingly rough tongues. (Of course, we had just fed cracked corn to the chickens, so there’s a chance that the calves were less interested in saying hello and more interested in licking the yummies off of our fingers.)
On our way back out, Peanut stopped to check out the cow bells between the barn and the mining exhibit; these bells are more plentiful and make a wider variety of noises than the ones at the zoo. We haven’t had a chance to try it ourselves, but there’s a sluice at the mine where you can pan for minerals (you do have to buy the bag of dirt to pan through; it was $8 the last time I checked but might have gone up). You can hear the windmill turning overhead and feel the cold water slide over your fingers.
We next headed through cool shade and past beautiful gardens to visit the fishing pond, home to one of our favorite feed-ees: the ducks. We walked out across the docks to the island in the center of the pond. Peanut did a dance with ducks at the shoreline: he would walk forward to the water’s edge to toss food at the ducks, and the ducks would coast out a bit into the water. As he climbed the bank to get more food, they would come back to the shore to pick up the morsels he’d thrown.
On our most recent visit, we were greeted by duck and goose families of different sizes and ages. There were little ducks straight out of Make Way for Ducklings, a darling Canada gosling with its parents, clear up to ducks just slightly smaller than their mother and goslings getting their first pin feathers. We learned that the ducks and geese are quite brave here: as long as you don’t molest them and offer them food, they’ll come right up to you so you can get a good look at them. Several geese even ate out of our hands–I think they will do this whether you want them to or not. As long as you hold your hand flat and still, they won’t bite you; Peanut did get nipped when he had his fingers curled over the food and the goose was a bit over-energetic.
On the East side of the farmstead, there are a variety of farm animals that you can visit and feed. The best part about this side of the farmstead is that the domestic animal displays have signage that’s in both print and braille. The braille is on beautiful metal sheets to the left of the print information, so it’s given equal weight and importance. It’s my understanding that the Pioneers donated the signs, so a big THANK YOU to any Pioneers reading this for making that gift to our tactile readers. This is the best print/braille signage I’ve encountered so far in our adventures (although the Prairie Park Nature Center in Lawrence comes close, and exceeds it in thoroughness).
On this side of the farm, we discovered water pumps where Peanut could feel what it’s like to hand-pump water and hear the sounds that go along with it. We found the largest wind chime I’ve ever seen along the nature trails–I want to say it was 2 stories tall. We also found a playground that Peanut fell in love with. There’s a log cabin and fort by it that provide tactile interest, several tactile elements to the playground itself, and a neat musical toy embedded in one of the sides.
There are tons of things to see and do at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead; some do have an additional fee, and some are included with the price of admission. I had no problems navigating the area by myself with my cane-user and stroller-rider; I think the site’s designed to be accessible, and they’ve largely succeeded in that.
Things that make Deanna Rose great for B/VI children:
- All sorts of surfaces for O&M students: decking, grass, concrete, gravel, mulch, asphalt, brick, sand.
- All sorts of sounds: chickens clucking, geese hissing, cows mooing, frogs croaking, fish splashing.
- All sorts of smells: flowers, chickens, herbs, cows, goats.
- There’s braille! Not everywhere, but so much more, and so much more nicely done, than most places.
- Tactile elements: the cool of the shade and the warmth of the sun; the geese coming up and eating from your hand; the roughness of the calves’ tongues; the different pieces of farm equipment and exhibits.
We love the Farmstead, and we think you will too. Definitely, it’s worth a visit, regardless of your or your child’s abilities.