I want to be six years old. I think it was the Once Upon a Time House that did it. Or Storybook Corner, which has it’s own Little Free Library and giant throne for storytime. It might have been when I heard the words “Snow Queen”. As in, “The Snow Queen hands out candy during Snowy Nights.”
It’s possible I want to be the Snow Queen.
I spent my Saturday morning marveling at the Botanic Garden’s My Big Backyard. Despite the overcast skies and cooler autumn temperatures, there were lots of children running back and forth, their patient parents jogging to keep up. There were lots of excited faces, and rightly so. The Botanic Garden has created a children’s paradise, combining nature and fantasy to great success. There are mazes and swings, slides and creeks, themed playhouses and a giant treehouse. The area is designed to be fun, of course, but also to teach. In Home Sweet Home, plants grow out of furniture and appliances. The area is designed to show how plants can be used in different rooms of the house, and signs show tips on conserving energy. Kids are encouraged to sample the mint leaves and figs from the trees that line one side. The Bee and Butterfly Patios are up next, explaining the importance of pollinators to plant life and lighting the way to Playhouse Lane.
Local artists designed the differing playhouse structures, and it really is a fantasy wonderland for little ones. In addition to the fairy tale house, there’s playhouses devoted to scientific exploration, full of magnifying glasses and other instruments of discovery. There’s a music house with built in musical instruments and a country farm house with a chicken coup in the back. The giant tree house offers rope bridges, facts about birds, and an eagle eye view of the whole area. Volunteers are encouraged to read a story, put on a puppet show, build up the giant bird’s nest, invite kids to sample the edible plants, whatever and wherever they feel most at home.
It’s really, really cool.
And it’s about to get cooler. With winter comes Snowy Nights in My Big Backyard, a holiday lights show with music, games, beautiful holiday displays, and the aforementioned Snow Queen. There’s always an educational piece, of course, and I got a terrible case of scissors fingers cutting hundreds of paper corn kernels for the “Holidays Around the World” class that will teach kids about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and more. They can learn, and then explore the winter wonderland waiting just outside. I, for one, can’t wait to see the magic.
I might even wear a tiara.
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