At Home & Living
A Parent’s Review: Kruckeberg Botanic Garden “Garden Tots” Program
Nestled among split-level homes in a quiet Shoreline neighborhood is Kruckeberg Botanic Garden. Although this four-acre parcel of land is called a garden, it feels more like an enchanted forest, complete with dappled sunshine, old-growth trees and hundreds of unique plant specimens. I half expected to see a little gnome scamper out of a hollow log but alas, squirrels and toddlers were the only little critters running about.
I brought my 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son on one of our rare sunny June days to experience Kruckeberg’s Garden Tots program, held each Friday throughout the summer for kids ages 2 to 7 and their caregivers. Garden Tots features a themed garden exploration, plant activity and craft project; “roots” was our theme. Upon being greeted by a friendly volunteer, we signed in, paid up and were directed toward a table showing examples of different root vegetables. I breathed a little sigh of relief as my kids were able to identify most of them correctly when asked. Then, each kid got a large, sturdy magnifying glass to use, and we were sent on our way.
My two excitedly trotted off down the trail, pausing to take an up-close look at spider webs, pine cones and any other interesting items (like a stray bolt under a picnic table, for instance). We were encouraged to head toward the meadow where we would find several flags bearing a roots-related fact, trivia question or activity. I also noticed several little placards around the garden indicating that we could call a number, enter a code and hear a recording about that plant. That’s how I learned about a unique evergreen tree from Japan, but by the time I got the phone on speaker, the kids were already off doing their own thing.
Speaking of which, we appreciated the relatively unstructured, do-it-yourself arrangement of the program. We were free to move at our own pace to explore, discover and appreciate as we saw fit—whether it was admiring a huge tree, watching bees go about their business, or lifting a chunk of rotting wood to see what was hiding underneath (answer: a beetle, some kind of larva and pillbugs). The garden itself is not a fussy, overly-manicured affair, but rather a natural, woodland setting.
After we’d had our fill of wandering the garden, we headed back up to the patio for our craft and plant project. Several kid-sized tables and chairs were set up with supplies. The kids were instructed to draw a root vegetable on white paper, carefully tear it out and put it on sticky paper, add some yarn bits for root hairs, then cover the remaining sticky paper with dry soil.
Next, a volunteer helped fill a clear plastic cup with potting mix, let the kids put a couple of seeds near the edge of the cup, then watered and wrapped the outside of the cup with newspaper. She explained that the roots that emerged would need darkness (hence the newspaper). Later, we’d be able to peek at the roots in action through the clear cup and then plant the seedling in our yard.
I should add that the garden has a clean , well-appointed bathroom near the patio, and several spots to sit and have a picnic. Close by is Richmond Beach Park, where you can play on the playground or beach. Overall, it was a relaxed and enjoyable way to spend an hour or two appreciating nature, one that we’d happily do again—as soon as “Junuary” is over.
If You Go...
Where: Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is located at 20312 15th Ave. N.W. in Shoreline. Only street parking is available; please be courteous to the neighbors when parking.
When: Garden Tots is held on a drop-in basis 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday through Sept. 28. Allow at least one hour to enjoy all of the activities. Best suited for ages 2 to 7 (with caregiver).
Cost: $7 per family, free for Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation members.
Contact: www.kruckeberg.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-546-1281.