Author of “A Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada”
Bring the Kids!
Summer’s here and Canada’s public gardens are at their best. You know you want to visit them yourself – who wouldn’t want to stroll through a beautiful garden filled with flowers – but maybe you feel you’re so tied up with your children or grandchildren you just can’t get away. Well, there’s an easy solution to that: bring them along!
Children love gardens. To them, they’re sites of enchantment and discovery. New colours to see, new scents to smell, curious textures to feel, and so much more. They’ll discover a pond, lake or river with fish and maybe even turtles. Many gardens let you feed the colourful koi (Japanese carp) that gather along the banks as you pass. When surrounded by flowers, have the kids search for insects and other critters. Bees, butterflies, damselflies and much more are there to see if only you take the time to notice them. You’ll certainly see birds and squirrels and maybe even a bunny! Use these discoveries to teach kids about the environment. Why are the bees and butterflies visiting the flowers? How do bees make honey? What do seeds turn into? How do heavy nuts move elsewhere to start a new tree? (Hint: watch the squirrels.)
For the older kids, often less enthusiastic than their younger siblings, turn the trip into a competition: who can find the most animals (and yes, slugs do count!)? Name the most flowers? What’s the biggest flower or leaf they can find? The smallest? (Bring a tape measure to end any disputes.) Before you leave for the garden, prepare a list of the animals and plants the kids are likely to see: just watch their eyes light up as they check things off… then personalize the lists by adding their own discoveries.
Many gardens allow and even encourage picnics, always a treat for kids. Bring plenty of sunscreen… and slip an umbrella into your bag, just in case. And do find out where the bathrooms are located when you arrive in the garden: you know the kids are going to need them!
Enjoy a garden outing this summer with your kids or grandkids… and if they really have a good time, do it again at another of Canada’s numerous public gardens.