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Spring is the Time to Visit Children’s Gardens

by Barbara Rogers

Apr 5, 2023

© Volgariver | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

Botanical gardens across the United States have special sections designed to appeal to young visitors and are perfect destinations for family travel. Plant-themed games, playgrounds, canopy walks, tree houses, hedge mazes, appealing sculptures and hands-on garden projects are designed to involve children in plants and the natural environment.


One of the first to add a garden especially for children was Atlanta Botanical Garden in 1999, which since expanded as the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden. Accessed via a flower bridge, the garden features a splash pad for younger children and a stepped vegetable garden showing the stages of edible gardening. A bog catches kids’ attention with insect-eating pitcher plants and Venus Flytraps, and kids can watch through a glass window as honeybees make honey.


Denver Botanic Gardens got creative, using the rooftop of a parking garage to build Mordecai Children’s Garden, a 3-acre oasis where kids can walk through hollow tree trunks, plant flowers and sample the diverse ecosystems in Colorado as they change throughout the seasons. Native plants grow in landscapes representing Alpine tundra, mountain forests, grasslands, wetlands and other zones, changing throughout the seasons so no two visits are the same.


In Washington, D.C., the outdoor Children’s Garden at U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory invites kids to touch, sniff, dig, plant and water plants as they play. Terraced platforms with interactive panels explore useful plants, while watering and planting stations with child-sized digging tools and watering cans invite kids to plant some themselves. Kids can walk through a kiwi tunnel and see bananas, figs, apples and other fruits growing.


The WOW Children’s Garden at Norfolk Botanical Garden includes a variety of experiences, including the world-themed splash fountains and Discovery Peak, where they can see, smell and touch edible plants as they climb. Plant Safari habitat gardens carry on the world theme and daily programs engage kids with scavenger hunts, crafts and discovery stations.


Even botanic gardens that don’t have entire children’s gardens often have special areas or programs for kids, often providing them with the loan of backpacks filled with magnifying glasses, kid-friendly identification guides, treasure hunts and other activities.


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