Tag - mn landscape arboretum

Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green
Visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Free in January

Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green

Nature Playgrounds are a growing trend for good reason; scientists keep finding connections between nature to child development and well-being.

nature playgrounds
nature playgroundsIt used to be, according to my children, that in order for a park to be authentic, it needed at least a slide and a set of swings. I was less enthusiastic about taking them to places like state parks simply because I felt I’d have to go the extra mile to “prove” that playing and exploring in a natural environment could be just as fun as clambering around a commercially manufactured jungle gym. Don’t get me wrong – the local playgrounds can be a lot of fun, too. And some are really inventive! But I have to say that I get a deeper satisfaction from watching them play in a more natural setting: digging, figuring out how to climb that tree, following paths, building forts. They become immersed in tossing rocks into the water, scouting frogs, collecting wildflowers. They also gradually forget that “playing at the park” requires a plastic treehouse.

So here’s what I find really cool: incorporating natural elements into new playground designs seems to be the trend. More places are popping up where kids get the opportunity to interact with the landscape and, perhaps, develop a greater appreciation for it. Here are seven places I’ve discovered that have those goals in mind:

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Visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Free in January

MN landscape arboretumMinnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska MN
Grounds open daily 8.30am – 5.30pm
FREE admission through January 31, 2014

So, now that you know admission to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is completely free every remaining day in January, you might be wondering if it would be a worthwhile place to take children in the middle of winter. (Unless, of course, you’ve already done it – and we welcome your opinion if you care to share.) I thought I would share my take on it based on a visit with my young daughters a couple winters ago.

If you’re already thinking, It couldn’t have been that great if she hasn’t set foot in the place in two years, let me clarify a couple things: first, I have since returned to the Arborteum. In kinder, warmer temperatures when the plants were in full bloom and my kids could run freely around them – definitely the season I prefer! (And absolutely worth its own blog post.) Second, the Arborteum is a good 40-minute drive from my home in St. Paul, so I feel there are places closer to home to romp around in the snow and observe the wildlife in winter.

However, there are some cool things going on indoors at the Marion Andrus Learning Center – located within the 1,100-acre complex – that may be worth the trip:

A Please-Touch Greenhouse – Just be careful what you touch. The first thing my daughter reached for turned out to be a cactus! And speaking of cacti…

Weekend Family Fun: Cozy Up to a Cactus will be presented for FREE six remaining weekend days this month (1/11/14 – 1/12/14, 1/18/14 – 1/19/14, 1/25/14 – 1/26/14). This would be a great way to try out this fun, hands-on program with the $12 Arboretum fee (ages 13+) waived.

mn landscape arboretumEducational interactive exhibits — There are many beautifully-crafted exhibits to enjoy from the comfort of the Learning Center. Most have to do with edible plants (food!) so they’re intrinsically interesting to kids.

Green Play Yard – This creative nature playground is open year-round, but I personally think it’s best enjoyed without snow cover.

And make sure to stop by the Oswald Visitor Center if you make the trip out. It’s mostly adult-oriented, but there are always beautiful things on display in the Great Hall (currently, there’s an orchid tree exhibit). Maps are available here if you’re interested in striking out into the interior of the Arboretum (note: during the winter months the roadway is closed to vehicles, but you’re welcome to hike or snowshoe).

mn landscape arboretum


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