By Nancy Turnage, Public Relations & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The air grows cooler, the days darken in late afternoon, and the trees portray nature’s brilliant autumnal portrait. Here at the Garden, the word is GardenFest and the magic it brings each year via more than a half million outdoor lights. But before all the hoopla and festivities, tucked in between Veterans Day and the abbreviated Thanksgiving work-week/Black Friday frenzy, is a wonderful, lesser-known endeavor: the Every Day is a Play Day Challenge by Active Kids Club.
As a child, I recall being bundled up and shuffled out of the house, along with my siblings, in order to expedite house-cleaning, cooking, decorating, or any of the myriad of to-do’s that the holidays entail. We ran in the brisk air, jumped in puddles, and oh those autumn leaves! It didn’t take much to set our imaginations afire – a stick on the ground, a pile of acorns, a chattering squirrel — and we were off and running, literally. Every Day is a Play Day is just that — a challenge to get your children outside, every day from Monday, November 14 through Saturday, November 19, no matter the weather.
Active Kids Club and organizations such as the Children and Nature Network, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and the Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden all share a common cause for today’s youth: promoting the health and welfare of our children by encouraging healthy eating, daily activity, and connecting children and their communities to nature. In fact, Active Kids Club cites the philosophy that,
There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
Dawn Lipscomb, Children’s Program Instructor at the Garden, has no shortage of suggestions to please and employ your busy bees here at the Garden during Play Day week. But if you can’t make it to the Garden, just head out to your front (or back) yard, as long as the little ones are out in nature; that’s what matters most.
Busy hands: the Carriage House Breezeway is open through Thursday, November 17, after which it will pack up ’til April. Take advantage of the multitude of self-guided, hands-on activities available for families to learn and enjoy together. Next week’s theme is “The Legend of the Silver Pinecones”; come read the tale of the poor family, a magical elf, and some prosperous pinecones, 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday, 1-4pm Monday through Thursday.
Busy feet: explore the Margaret Streb Conifer and Lucy Payne Minor Gardens via their secluded, woodsy paths. They offer room for little feet to explore and gorgeous views for photo ops on the way to the Anderson Wildflower Meadow and Diamonds in the Rough, the ultimate play house. Wildside Walk is a longer foot path behind Bloemendaal House. Get great views of the historic structure as you traverse behind the Carriage House and past the Children’s Garden. Beautiful stone steps add to the vigor.
Busy minds: the Children’s Farm Garden offers a plenitude of late autumn greenery. Have a crafty one? They will no doubt enjoy Everyone’s House, Stickwood Studio, and Woodland Pointe where they can explore weaving and natural material construction using mosses, wood pieces, and leaves.
Traditional Garden fun: SandPlay and children are familiar friends. International Village is premium playing-house real estate. Climb 100+ year-old Mulberry Tree and its horizontal traipsing limbs. As always, keep an eye out for that sneaky Stickman — he’s about somewhere, high above and watching all ….
Building character: preparations are underway for GardenFest. Everywhere you look, there are people scurrying around building, gardening, stringing lights, trimming the trees with ornaments, and putting together train displays. At any moment of the day, innumerable Garden volunteers give of their time and expertise; take a stroll with the little ones and watch them work and lead by example — giving back to the community for a greater good. And if your children are a bit older — 13 and up — share with them that even youth can volunteer at the Garden.
Life goes on: the geese honk and squabble; the turtles compete for log-space to sun themselves; the fragrance of roses permeate the breeze. Hear the trickling brook. Take a break from the day, the week, the season, and spend time in the sun or the rain.
The Children’s Garden is one of more than a dozen themed gardens at Lewis Ginter. It strives to provide a safe and universally accessible environment where children and their families can explore, using their senses to make meaningful interactions with nature and understand their interdependence with the plant world. So take time each day next week, don your hats, raincoats, boots, or shorts — whatever mother nature dictates, whether it be Indian-summer warm or Winnie-the-Pooh blustery — and head outside to make some memories … nature awaits….