By: Shauna Armitage
As soon as the doors opened at the Denver Botanic Gardens, my family rushed through. I don’t think that my five-year-old really knew what a Botanic Garden was, but he sure was excited to find out. Right away he took off down the walkways yelling back for his father, sister and I to follow. My six-week-old daughter slept peacefully in her stroller as my son continued to run ahead finding little “trails” to turn down.
Discovering the jungle
The boy was certainly fascinated by everything before him, but the first truly amazing moment for him was when we entered “the dome”. Inside there are three levels of exotic and tropical plants and even a little fish pond which had him completely mesmerized. My son all but ran along the paths, smelling the pretty plants that lived along the winding way and pretending to be an explorer. We found big colorful plants hanging from trees and even a little plant that produced beans for chocolate—a fact that mesmerized my little man. I followed his lead through the jungle as quickly as I could, even carrying the stroller up a slippery flight of stairs only to find an elevator at the top. When we rode this elevator to the ground floor, my children and I discovered that it was located inside a “cave” which only made it more cool for my five-year-old, and we had to go up and down it at least ten times before we could move on to the Children’s Garden.
A place for kids to be kids
Upon entering the Mordecai Children’s Garden, the first thing I noticed is that it seemed a little bare. When we got closer to the plants, I saw how this little place really comes alive for children. Signs strategically placed within the plant life invites young ones to look, analyze, smell, touch and feel. What museum have you ever been to that encourages you to touch the artwork? Within no time at all we found ourselves looking for bees, counting petals and identifying prickly little plants. My son was fascinated by this little world beneath his feet, but his energy simply couldn’t be contained. He rushed off up a “mountain” and proceeded to jump and squeal with delight on the wobbly bridge at the top—all within sight of some real mountains, the Rockies stood majestically in the distance watching our whole day unfold.
Just further down the path we found a small stream with several children splashing happily about inside of it. A hidden path revealed a teepee and some bee costumes, which we took full advantage of before heading down to the pond to identify the willowy flora which decorated its banks.
Hours and hours passed, and my son just kept trucking on. Each little flower, each spiny stem, each rock to stack kept my son completely enthralled. Our family loves to get out and swim or hike or camp or anything outdoors, but we never realized exactly how much fun nature could be until we found it nestled in a garden in downtown Denver.
Three reasons to visit your local garden
There are many ways to get your kid off the couch and into the world, but learning about nature is certainly one of the best. Instead of simply going on a hike, visiting your local botanic garden will give your little one the opportunity to see spectacular plant life that may not be native to your area such as delicate orchids and cocoa bean trees.
Any place like the Botanic Garden in Denver, which has a separate area just for the kids, is ideal. Children need to have the freedom to run a little wild, touch the plant life and explore on their own terms.
Especially for those families who live in cities, a local botanic garden can be a special learning experience. Not only will your young kids enjoy trekking through the unknown territory, but they can also partake in cooking and gardening classes catered specifically toward them which teach important life skills.
There’s no wrong reason to visit a botanic garden, so find one close to you and spend a little time in the city and in nature.