The Arboretum Isn’t Just for Trees, It’s for Chocolate and Children

IMG_1092 You don’t have to be a homeschooling parent to appreciate all of the wonder and potential in your own backyard, you just have to be a parent that values the time children spend in nature. Not only is it good for the environment for our kids to be a part of nature early on, learning to protect and value it – it is good for our children – their brain development and overall health.  That is why we get our kids outside every chance we can. This is made easier by our close proximity to the Morton Arboretum.  Last year I bought myself a quality bike to ride to work and a baby seat so I could take my newborn (then 4 months) with me to teach prenatal classes.  My 3 year old soon became jealous so I bought my husband a quality bike with baby seat.  We purchased the CoPilot Taxi and the CoPilot Limo seat (for the baby because of the recline and other features). We have been more happy with the ease of assembling the Limo, not as satisfied with the Taxi.

Armed with our bikes and bike rack we then bought a membership to the Morton Arboretum.  Well worth the expense, we took all three kids almost daily to the Arboretum for exhilarating and some times challenging rides through the paths.  At the end of each ride we took the kids to the Children’s Garden and many times other events we could attend like family concerts, bubble day and daily crafts.

The Children’s Garden spans four acres of fun and foliage, flowers and activities. From the leaf and flower stamped path you trod on as you enter, to the sound garden and more – it is a whirlwind adventure for children of all ages.  In springtime there is the tadpole pond where children can gently explore the life cycle of tadpoles up close and personal.  Working water pumps throughout the garden provide relief from the hot weather, and ponds with spitting frog statutes allow little hands to splash around.  Along the walk through the garden there are many opportunities for pure physical exertion.  The garden houses a large spider web like rope climber, three playground areas – one shaped into the side of a mountain with a gnarly tree design, another fort like IMG_1097area that allows for splendid views and a final tree house like playground that is nestled next to a riverbed.  The riverbed is a fast favorite that children can build life-sized dams along or as my children prefer, walk barefoot down –splashing as they go.  Be sure to bring an extra set of pants and socks for the ride home if you are one of those parents who does not realize that the hot weather will dry out the clothes during your walk back to the car.  I can’t tell you how much childhood exuberance and fun I have heard and seen squashed by parents who are worried about wet clothing.  They are only young once, and washing machines exist in this day and age so let them splash and explore, its good for their brains.  That doesn’t motivate you? They’ll fall asleep sooner and faster – trust me.

IMG_1095 As you can see picture right, we brought my youngest here as an infant even before we purchased our bikes.  The Children’s Garden has a full set of bathrooms, including family bathroom and changing station –and many covered areas and seats.  I can the perfect place to breastfeed easily and there is always a spot in the shade for tiny heads.  That being said, there is also a great deal of open space and if you have a toddler who likes to run – pack a hat and the sunscreen!

One of the biggest attractions for my boys is the large spinning globe. Held up by water pressure, this might stone globe is carved with different leaves and invites manipulation of its might mass from all ages. With the infant and toddler taken care of you may ask, what about older children? My 11 year old loves the Children’s Garden just as much as my younger two and as he gets older there are more opportunities for him to become involved in conservation activities through the arboretums MACGYVER program which is for youth entering 7-9th grades. Children volunteer primarily in the four acre garden, and when they outgrow this program they can apply to be a counselor in training. What do Macgyvers do?

 

  • Naturalist Macgyvers—interact with Children’s Garden guests and facilitate hands-on activities.
  • Gardening Macgyvers—assist in planting garden beds and containers, harvest edible products, and care for landscaped areas of the Children’s Garden.

Families are not filled with kids alone and the Arb has dozens of programs for adults.  Once a member you should subscribe to their newsletter, digitally of course to save the trees, and you will find some great goings on like this…

Celebrating Chocolate

Discover the sweetness of February with chocolate-themed activities throughout the month. Sample and shop a unique array of chocolate treats at our IMG_1093Chocolate Expo & Market, enjoy a chocolate-themed brunch, make gourmet truffles, be part of a chef’s demonstration, sample a beer ice cream float, and more!

Yes, you read this correctly, the Morton Arboretum is hosting a Celebration of Chocolate. We joined the Arb for their wonderful Children’s Garden and Hedge Maze – then found the Tree House Tales and more events to enjoy through out the year including this new one, Celebrating Chocolate.

You heard it here, they will even have Gluten Free goodies from Defloured bakery.

Celebrating Chocolate

The Ultimate Chocolate How-To Guide

Have fun in the kitchen and learn to be a chocolatier, just like the pros!

The Perfect Chocolate Pairing

Come explore the complexities of chocolate when paired with the perfect wine or beer. Your palate will thank you.

The Basic Truffle Recipe

Great truffles start with a great base recipe.

 

The Chocolate Expo & Market, held February 2 and 3 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Visitor Center, is free with admission.

Chicago’s Sweet Candy History, Revisited on February 16 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. in the Ginkgo Room. Tickets are $25 for members and $30 for nonmembers. Purchase your tickets or learn more about the brunch menu on our website.Need more chocolate? Join them for how-to classes  throughout the month of February or sign-up for their wine or beer pairing events.

Do you have a special outdoor place you like to visit? How about one during winter months? I’d love to know!

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