When your kids are bored by the local park and you don’t have energy to take them to wilderness areas, look for a Children’s Garden. We discovered a delightful garden play-area hidden in a corner of our small town. (Don’t know where to find such a place? Check HERE for a list of botanical gardens around the world. Many of them have an area especially designed for children.)
Spending time at a Children’s Garden is not just all about fun. (…although that’s obviously an excellent motive to get out the door with a bunch of kids!) Spending regular time outdoors is also important for our children’s development. There is growing clamor from “experts” who remind us that children need connections with nature to thrive. According to Andy McGeeney, allowing our children to explore outdoor areas in a free, unstructured way “enhances children’s social relationships, confidence in risk taking and exploration, as well as connections to nature.”
“Reports concluded that being in nature was important to childhood, as much as a healthy diet and exercise.” (Gill—London Sustainable Development Commission)
Here are 8 things to look for on your next outing to a local Children’s Garden:
Welcome: Hopefully, the Children’s Garden is a welcoming place that offers a safe space to wander and many beckoning corners and hidden patios to keep the attention of young ones (and caregivers, too!)
Walkways: Following a path is intriguing, especially if an interesting destination is visible. Even better are trails that twist and turn, letting children imagine what might be around the next corner.
Wacky: The best gardens have wacky “rooms” that make fun of the real world. Tiny fairy houses or GIANT oversized tools are both fun to explore.
Wander: An excellent Children’s Garden will have space for children to safely wander on their own. Opportunities for free-exploration are important for building self-esteem and a sense of competence in the world.
Window to Another World: Window-views add an extra layer of enjoyment. Those openings frame Nature’s “art” and offer glimpses of new worlds to explore.
Water: I know, I know, water gets messy. But that is part of what makes an outing memorable! Opportunities to play in water are a wonderful addition to any play area. Just bring some towels and keep a close eye on your kids, of course.
Whimsy: Why have boring, “normal” play equipment in a Children’s Garden? Choosing unique climbers, play houses, and benches adds a whimsical touch rather than just feeling like a typical playground with a few extra plants and flowers.
Wonder: Any time we step outside our doorways, there is an opportunity to allow our children to experience the wonder of the world around us. All of us are happier when we “take time to smell the flowers!”
See a list of a few of my favorite books, articles, and websites about the importance of connecting with nature HERE
We all need to get outside regularly. But let’s not forget the children. Let’s teach the next generation to love Nature as well! (Drop a line in the comments–what is one thing you do for fun outside?)