Sunday, May 22, 2016

Children's Discovery Garden

While visiting Dayton, Ohio, we stopped by the Children's Discovery Garden, part of Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark. Unfortunately, this section was closed for some repairs, but I talked to the attendant, explaining we'd driven a long way as we had heard Five Rivers Metro Parks is a leader in Nature Play. She checked with her supervisor and was able to give us a tour of the space, including details we might not have noticed otherwise.

There were animal topiaries throughout--this engaged my son! You can see him here trying to "pet" the bear!

There were neat details throughout, such as the straw bale building that housed the bathrooms. I like the sign that pointed out building with nature--goes right along with the Nature Inspired Tinkering programs I have been doing. 

There were several separate sections with simple signs to educate the public and groups that visit. The guide talked about the many frogs and such they see in the wetlands area.

They also had a small cave to walk through with stalagmites and stalactites! I loved the concrete just outside of this section that showed the uneven topography. I thought this was a neat touch that also allowed for varied surfaces and a bit of a challenge for the children.

While the children's garden area is not that large, it optimizes the space to really include so many elements, such as a prairie section. Once again, great little descriptors! 

Animal tracks and native leaf prints decorated the paths. Other elements, like artwork added whimsy to the space. 

Signs to educate about habitats extended the learning experience. 

I liked this tunnel leading into a little "hiding" spot. The tunnel appears to be made of rebar, with metal "cloth" draped over. It will be covered in plants soon, making it even more magical. These were other little "hiding" spots along the path, such as these trees with drooping branches to give places to hide.
Despite Mr. Grumpy Pants in the front, the canoe is neat! I have been looking for one of these locally for a feature like this. Seeing how they put it in place was good for the visual. 

The Wildlife Garden is a neat pollinator garden! This will be popping with blossoms soon! There was a whole section dedicated to vegetable gardens, including details like a bug hotel!

There were a couple of ways to interact with sand, like the rock edged pit and the sand tables. Both look inviting! Sand is a great loose part! 

There is also a musical maze with all kinds of instruments throughout the garden path! These are some neat pieces! 

I loved the hanging flags through the sensory garden! There were things to touch (like lambs ear), smell, taste, etc. 

I love it when my kids point things out they notice! My oldest looked at these flowers and talked about the "faces" he sees in them! Because of the garden being closed, we didn't have a lot of "free time", but were able to go visit the various sections of the area; however, it looks like it would be a fun to explore more freely! There is a more formal garden and a swamp forest nearby. The boys liked looking at the interesting trees in the swamp forest! It's great cities are encouraging spaces to connect to nature in a variety of ways. A big thanks to the guide who showed us the garden and gave us tips on nearby areas as well! 

As we headed to a nearby children's museum (Boonshoft), we spied this big circle of trees near the gardens with kids running in and out. We were intrigued and stopped for a quick pic!

Fast forward several hours and we returned! It was a double ring of trees with a path in between and an open circle in the middle. The boys loved traipsing back and forth and around. Talk about getting more exercise in natural areas! They were naturally motivated to move and interact with the invitation presented to them. I thought it was pretty neat! 

Nearby was a double lane of a fruit tree, so it seemed, in an organic path. They were fairly short and provided good cover for exploring children. My oldest is my biggest tree climber and naturally started getting up in the tree. He was wearing a bright red shirt, but we couldn't see him in it at a distance.

He was proud of how hidden he was, poking his head out so I could find him! The second picture is to give a little perspective. We stayed in this general area, noting the bird nesting boxes and bat boxes, as well as the wildflowers that were popping up, for quite a while. It was a fun place to play and relax, with no need for play ground equipment or signs about how to interact and use the area. I'm hoping the tree climbing was okay and am saddened to see it more limited in other areas across the United States. Thanks for a great visit, Five Rivers Metro Parks!

The formal gardens were also very pretty, with plenty of spaces to explore. It looked popular for photos! 

There are trails to a nearby forest swamp. Such interesting trees! 

When we arrived, my kids were immediately drawn to the old piles of log pieces!