Children’s garden reopens, with more for less (Apr. 1)

March 30, 2008

This is going to be a great week for free outdoor spring activities — there’s way more going on than I can do justice to! But I’ll do my best, starting with the opening of the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden on Wednesday (Apr. 1). It’s free all that first day, as well as every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon for St. Louis City and County residents. (The free admission times are new this year — and we should all shout out a big thank you to whoever made the decision!  Regular admission is $3 per child for ages 3 to 12; adult admission is included with regular garden tickets, and kids under 3 get in free.)

The two-acre wonderland the botanical garden has carved out for kids is fun just to poke around in, but it can also be a very educational experience. Indoors, there’s a nature classroom full of creative play ideas with natural materials. Outdoors, every ecosystem in Missouri is represented; the fauna is native to Missouri (and the invasive species are “locked up” in the jail so kids start to become aware that not everything with green foliage is a good plant to have around, particularly when it comes to waterways). Often, as with the rope bridges and the water play area, kids won’t even realize the motor skills they’re learning — for them it’s all about the fun.

Because the area is made for running and climbing, it can be tricky to keep tabs on all your kids at once, particularly if you bring along a stroller and want to try to keep an eye on it too. I tend to leave our stroller in the entrance area, especially if the kids will be on the rope bridges. If we’re headed for the water play area, the stroller makes a little more sense (to carry the inevitable change of clothes).

The children’s garden has an official grand opening on Saturday (Apr. 5), with a big Missouri adventure theme and many special activities between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. During the rest of the season (which runs until Oct. 31), there are special activities Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. The children’s garden itself is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the larger garden, this is also a busy week: The half-hour narrated tram tours resume, and there’s an Arbor Day tree sapling giveaway on Friday (Apr. 4) starting at 9 a.m. at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. (Species include shumard oak, bald cypress and blackgum).

As in years past, the garden offers free admission for adult St. Louis City and County residents on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, when the grounds open at 7 a.m. Children under 12 receive free admission all the time (except to the children’s garden; see above). For detail, try out the garden’s recorded answer line at 314.577.9400.

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