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Exploring Chicago Botanic Garden with Kids by Melissa Haak @PBinmyHair / Little Lake County

The Chicago Botanic Gardens is one of the gems of our area. If you think it’s a stuff garden that’s not meant for children, think again! More than ever the Chicago Botanic Gardens is a perfect place for a family adventure with kids of all ages.

For the Self Explorer

If you and your family like to take your time and forge your own path one of the best way to visit the garden is for a self paced discover adventure. Stop at the information desk in the visitor center to find out which gardens are in bloom at the time of your visit and to pick up a discovery backpack.

Kids enjoying Chicago Botanic Garden

Kids enjoying Chicago Botanic Garden

Discovery backpacks come with binoculars, field guides for birds, flowers and trees, and a magnifying glass. There are also scavenger hunt sheets available at the desk. With these in hand you can set out to explore one or two specific gardens trying to find the flowers in your guide or the items listed on your scavenger hunt. My kids are always in a race to find everything they can on their sheet before the other one does.

Bouquet of flyers at Chicago Botanic Garden

Bouquet of flyers at Chicago Botanic Garden

The guide books aren’t your stuff field guide either they are full color and easy to use for little hands. The guides fan out and have large images of the birds or plant at the top. This makes it easy for even the smallest non readers to use them and enjoy the experience.

Drop-in Activities

Throughout the week the Chicago Botanic Gardens offers drop-in activities on the learning campus either in the Gruensfield Children’s Growing Garden or in the Kleiman Family Cove. On our visits we have done craft projects, made a bird feeder and done planting to bring home for our own garden.

We recently visited on one of the Malott Japense Garden Family Festivals and my children were able to make paper kites, fans, practice Japanese Calligraphy, design their own zen garden, practice using chopsticks and learn origami.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

Model Railroad Garden

Of course the biggest and best attraction for small children is the Model Railroad garden. These year’s garden is filled with Landmarks from across America and includes everything you would expect from the Hollywood sign to Old Faithful. If you have toddlers or preschoolers they will especially love that there is also an Island of Sodor present.

Train at Chicago Botanic Garden

Train at Chicago Botanic Garden

The best way to do the garden with kids is to go with a very relaxed attitude and a small plan. Pick one or two gardens or activities that you plan to do and limit yourself to just those. We always pack a picnic lunch and either start or end in the picnic area {the picnic area is right off of parking lot 2, so park there!}. If you have small children the entire garden is stroller friendly so bring it and use it! Note that some areas are restricted and do not allow strollers in, like the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit. Be sure to visit the families page on the Chicago Botanic Gardens site to find out what’s going on this month fun families.

Melissa, Little Lake County

Melissa, Little Lake County

Melissa is mom to four kids and lives in Northern Lake County. She used to live in heels and dream of traveling the world, now she lives in her minivan and dreams of a clean kitchen. She writes about all the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair, and is the creator and editor of Little Lake County, the go to resource for local family fun in Lake County.

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