What is My Big Backyard?
This family garden is a place for jumping, splashing, digging, creating, daydreaming, discovering, and simply enjoying time spent outdoors.
- It’s part Children’s Museum…lots of things to see and do.
- It’s part Playground…with challenging structures for active play like slides, tunnels and balance beams.
- It’s part Outdoor Art Gallery, featuring the work of over thirty local artists.
- It’s part Horticultural Display, with a wide variety of specimens that would interest any gardener.
But mainly it is a Garden designed to engage children in outdoor play. We hope to inspire parents to take the message home and create spaces in their own backyard that will foster an appreciation for the natural world.
What age is appropriate for visiting this garden?
There are 16 different themed areas designed to engage a range of ages and abilities. Seedling Circle provides a special spot for toddlers while Nature Play features more challenging activities like fort-building. Even teens and adults without children will enjoy visiting the garden’s art and plantings.
What are the garden rules?
We want children to have fun, but we want to make sure they’re minding their garden manners when they visit. We’re seeing a lot of plants getting trampled in the display beds. We know that it’s confusing to have an area for children where you encourage them to play freely in some areas, but stay out of others, so this is where we need the parent’s help. They can use it as a teaching moment to help explain that for flower beds to be successful, you have to till the soil making it loose so that the plant’s roots can thrive. When lots of little feet walk in the beds, the soil gets compacted making it hard for the plants to stay healthy. Please make sure that children stay out of planted flower beds.
Do parents need to supervise their children?
Because this is a garden, not a playground, parent supervision is really important. We want to make sure everyone remains safe (especially around the pond) and that the garden thrives. There are several places where adults can rest on a bench while their children play, but for the most part, they need to be playing right alongside them! Unlike traditional children’s play equipment, the natural materials, original artwork, and unique exhibits in this garden were designed to create a whimsical garden setting. If children play roughly with these materials, they will break. We hope that families will view this as “their special garden” and will help take care of the play props and plantings.
What else should parents do during their garden visit?
We hope that parents will use their visit to experience magical spaces in the garden and explore alongside their children. There are many areas in addition to the popular playhouses and treetop play area where discoveries can be made.
Parents can encourage observation by asking questions, like "I wonder why that bee is visiting that flower? What does that plant smell like? How does that tree’s bark feel?
There are also many wonderful areas throughout the Garden for families to visit, such as the Prehistoric Plant Trail, the Urban Orchard, and the Butterfly Garden.
How often does it rain?
Raindrop Stop comes on every 30 minutes. It begins with 1 minute of clouds and thunder followed by 2 minutes of “rain”. This feature is active from early May to late September.
Can children wear bathing suits?
No. We want to emphasize that this is a garden, not a water park. The idea is to run through the rain quickly to cool off. Then play in the sun until you dry off. You can also bring or purchase an umbrella, if you don’t want your children to get too wet.
Can the kids go barefoot?
We suggest that children keep shoes on to avoid slipping on the wet concrete. And, just like in a real stream, you should keep your shoes on for safety while wading along the rocky Critter Creek.
How deep is the pond?
There is a ledge that runs around the entire perimeter that sticks out 3 feet where it is only 18 inches deep. So, if a child falls in, they should be able to stand right up. Once you go out past 3 feet, however, there is a drop off and the pond becomes deep enough so that it can support normal pond life. Parents need to keep close watch over their children near the pond area.
Can we feed the fish in the pond?
No. The fish food purchased at the front desk can only be used in the pond in the Japanese Garden.
Can your family picnic in the garden?
Yes, there are picnic tables and trash receptacles located next to the Guest House and we ask that you go there for your lunch or snacks. A vending machine is available at all times and on weekends, our Lemonade Stand is open.
Can you have birthday parties in My Big Backyard?
Yes! Our birthday brochure has all the information on our Backyard Birthday Celebration as well as rental of the canopy. For the consideration of our other guests, all parties and events in My Big Backyard are by reservation only.
Can schools or other groups visit this garden?
This garden is designed for family experiences and small classes only. Any school, scout or other youth groups group planning a visit to the garden must make a reservation.
We have info in our Student Program Guide on classes that we offer in My Big Backyard. Classes are for groups of 25 students or less and require a 1:3 chaperone ratio. hey include 45 minutes of instructional time and 45 minutes of free play. The fee is $5 per student. Interested groups can call our Education Department at 636-4126 to schedule a visit.
Can school groups participating in other garden programs visit My Big Backyard?
No, the class fees for our other classes and festivals do not include children’s garden admission. Space is limited in the teaching areas and we must allow plenty of room for the regular garden visitors, so only small, scheduled groups will fit. Plus, children need to be closely supervised when visiting, so it is not an appropriate venue for some of our larger participating groups.
Do you need volunteers?
Yes! Contact Page McCoy at 636-4105 for more volunteer information. We have four different categories available for volunteering in this garden:
Greeters sit in the shade of the kitchen, welcome visitors, and serve as an Information Station, mainly needed on weekends and school holidays, but we welcome help any time.
- Gardeners help tend the garden (weeding, watering, etc.)
- PALS, or Play and Learn Supporters, are stationed in various areas to facilitate the activities. Teens & college students would be great for this job.
- Class Instructors are needed to assist with some of our programs. No prior knowledge is required!