Springtime at Tyler is a magical opportunity to get outside and reconnect with family, friends, and the natural world. As we navigate this new season, we have some exciting opportunities and suggested activities to help you explore all the wonders of spring with your family. We asked our Visitor Center staff and volunteers what they recommend for young families. Here’s their answers:
- We always suggest checking out the Tyler Calendar when you’re planning your visit! It’s a great resource to see if we’re running any tours or programs that would help you and your family soak up the magic of the season. Many of our tours are free of charge for Tyler Members, and admission is included with registration for non-members.
- We’re also starting an exciting new program this year of Self-Guided Tours. You can access these tours with your smartphone, by picking up a paper copy at the Visitor Center, or by downloading our tour here! Promise of Spring Self Guided Tour.
- For our littlest adventurers, we also offer scavenger hunts which can be picked up at the Visitor Center. These hunts are designed to help children of all ages make observations and see the world in a new way. Be sure to let the staff at the Visitor Center know if you complete your scavenger hunt. Each participant will receive a sticker!
- If you’ve visited Tyler recently, you may have noticed four new friends hanging out near the Visitor Center. These gnomes were generously donated by families at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El as one of their MLK projects. But soon the gnomes’ curiosity will lead them astray, and we will need your help finding them. You can pick up this brand new scavenger hunt at our Visitor Center or download it here! Can You Find Us
Keep reading for more suggested activities to help little ones explore springtime at Tyler, and for a short story from one of our talented Visitor Center staff about a spring visit to the Arboretum.
Can you find us?
Suggested Activities for Children at Tyler
Louisa Romaine, Tyler Volunteer (and retired librarian)
Although most adults are happy to walk at Tyler and enjoy being unplugged and outside, many children don’t consider walking “doing something.” Here are a few suggestions to engage young ones while outside:
- Ask the child to pick a color and find anything that color like flowers, plants, buildings — even clothing of other visitors.
- Look for different kinds of birds.
- Using crayons and paper, do a leaf rubbing of the bark of several trees. Compare how they are different. Then, by reading the plant tag, identify the tree. The child may want to take the papers home and make a book of tree rubbings as a memory of the Tyler visit.
- Take a small magnifying glass and look at items found along the walk, such as plants, insects, and even soil to see some interesting creatures.
- Go on a “Listening Walk” and try to identify sounds that you hear. It can be particularly fun if you are near water. For example, you might hear frogs vocalizing or turtles plopping into the water.
- Read the StoryWalk™ book and ask about what you read to the child. Was it a good story? What did they like about it? Was there anything they didn’t like?
- Count how many animals you see. For instance, chipmunks are always fun to watch.
- Adjust activities to the child’s level. Toddlers may be happy just looking for flowers, while older children may need more of a challenge, i.e., finding a crocus or a flowering tree.
Whatever activity you choose, enjoy this time connecting with nature and your child. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes can often lead to a different perspective for the adult.
A Family enjoying the StoryWalk™ at Tyler
Our Visitor Center Staff Associate, Sabine Cranmer, shared this fictitious story of a family enjoying a visit on an early spring day:
A Day At Tyler
By Sabine Cranmer
February 14th is Valentine’s Day, and there is plenty of love for nature on the part of children at Tyler at this time of year. Let’s imagine one family on a balmy early spring day. The little ones, Jackson and Sophia, are tumbling out of their cars to greet our wooden snow figure family at the Visitor Center. “Stand next to that one so I can take your picture!” says Mom, while cardinals and song sparrows sound their first notes, heralding spring from the eastern red cedar outside the Visitor Center window. Once admitted, the group walks down the shady, narrow path and onto the Arboretum grounds. To the right are the historic buildings, but Jackson makes a b-line for the crooked house. Sophia takes a zigzag path, and they go right in. What do they expect to find? Sophia sticks her head out of the window. I could live here, she thinks, but Jackson has moved on, and his mother is following behind. Sophia hesitates, then follows them. She had been enjoying her temporary home.
Jackson notices a sign in front of Stone House. He can already make out some of the words on page two of the book on the stand, and the pictures help him expand upon the meaning. It’s the StoryWalk™, featuring the beloved book, The Mitten. As Jackson, Sophia, and Mom follow the book’s pages on their walk into the Native Woodlands, they start to notice how plausible the story feels. After all, they each lost a mitten just a week earlier. Wouldn’t it be nice to discover it on the path with a friendly little chipmunk inside?
Sophia is still little and working on her balance, so she is very proud of her progress on the uneven trail. Mom lets her take her time while Jackson runs ahead and discovers Lucille’s Garden at the end of the path! Neat rows of pea gravel define the borders of beds where vegetables are raised for the Media Food Bank during the growing season. Mom remembers that a sign at the entrance requested donations for the food bank and makes a mental note to take a picture of the sign on the way out, so she can be sure to look in her kitchen and at the grocery store for items to donate the next time they come. Jackson and Sophia enter the garden and see straw in the beds. Mom explains that the straw is a blanket for the seeds underneath, and the children look for signs of emerging plants. Jackson is learning about shapes, and Mom points out the shapes all around – the rectangular door, the circular tree stumps, the triangular sign. Next, Jackson notices a rope-railed walkway made using a fallen tree. What an interesting structure! Even Sophia can walk on a log with the protection of the rope netting to catch her, but Mom stays close if she needs help.
Time for lunch! Everyone washes their hands in the bathrooms in the Schoolhouse at Lucille’s Garden, then finds a seat at the sunny tables next to the Rain Garden. It feels good to rest and eat before continuing their exploration.
Enjoying a break at Lucille’s Garden
After lunch, Sophia is ready for a nap and falls asleep in her stroller. The next stop is the Pond, just a few steps away. Jackson hopes to see the turtles and blue heron he remembers from the summer. They seem to be gone, but some squirrels chase each other around a tree behind the Goldilocks chairs. Jackson climbs up onto the Papa Bear chair, and Mom takes his picture to post on social media.
The shaded path signals a change in the landscape and encourages thoughts of heading back. Instead, Mom decides to enjoy a walk and chooses a route that will form a loop past the historic trees along the Scenic Route. The historic trees are easy to spot, with their blue accession (plant ID) tags.
“Look, Mom, these look just like the chocolates Grandma sent us!” says Jackson, pointing at a few seeds still left on the ground from the fall bounty. Mom replies, “Those are named after the seeds from this buckeye tree!” They continue along the Scenic Loop. Jackson finds another tree with a blue accession tag and asks his mother to tell him what kind of tree he’s found. “Oak?” she guesses. Jackson triumphantly sounds out, “tulip!” He also finds an interesting stick and a rock to add to his collection of items to carry.
Turning onto the gravel path towards the barn, Jackson looks over the side of the little bridge into the stream beneath. He drops his stick into the water and runs across to see it emerge from under the bridge on the other side. Then he tosses the stone into the water. It makes a satisfying plunk. Jackson runs ahead again as Sophia starts to wake up. Rounding the barn, Mom is surprised to see beautiful yellow witch hazel and wintersweet flowers on the shrubs along the slope, and takes in the view of the bright red mass of winterberries at the top of the hill. She pauses to reflect on the peaceful feeling their visit to the Arboretum has given her.
The Visitor Center staff waves and smiles as she passes by on their way to the car. It was nice to spend the day outside and to experience the promise of spring.