Highlights of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for Kids

5/18/09 - By Anna Fader

There are no gimmicks and the only attractions are the plants, but that doesn't mean a day at a garden is a snore for kids. We took the kids to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and had a day packed with excitement, discovery, beauty and fun. So if you are sick of the same old kid-centric attractions, skip the toddler crowds and try something a little different.

Yes, a garden can be a great destination for a visit with kids. The trick is knowing how to approach it. Here are highlights of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that will make visiting the gardens with kids more fun:


The Japanese Garden
For sure, the biggest attraction at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is the Japanese Garden. With a giant coi pond, turtles lazing on rocks, sculpted bonzai trees, waterfalls, bridges, and sculptures hidden around every bend, the Japanese Garden is a lot of fun for kids and a great way to set the stage for enjoying the rest of the gardens.

In the Japanese Gardens we discussed what elements made these gardens Japanese and how was it different than a regular garden. This helped us take note and enjoy looking carefully to appreciate what we were looking at. Of course, the fish, turtles and other fun elements were entertainment enough.

As we moved on to the traditional European gardens we were now able to compare them with the Japanese Gardens. The straight, formal lines versus the organic lines in the Japanese Garden, the figurative fountains versus waterfalls. The comparison even led to a discussion about how Eastern and Western cultures view their relationships with nature differently.


The Children's Garden
After getting all educational, it's time to blow off some steam in the Children's Discovery Garden, a ramshackle corner of the BBG with a little nature path and some run down play zones, including a pile of acorns, a water table with no water, etc. But, an attraction only needs one element to be a hit with kids and in this case it's the water pump. Apparently kids love the process of carrying water from the stream to prime the pump and then making the pump work to fill the stream again. It's magically entertaining and seems to keep them occupied indefinitely. But, beware many little fingers get pinched in the pump, the price of good old fashioned fun.

The Greenhouses
In the greenhouses are many more delights for kids: carnivorous plants, a desert full of cacti, more bonzai, and tropical plants.

The wonderful thing about a garden is that it is literally different every time you come. When you arrive you will be given a map that has a self-guided tour on the back and tells you what to look for at different times of year: the cherry blossoms are an obvious seasonal hit, but we were able to catch bluebell hill in full bloom, a sea of blue flowers, and there are many other seasonal delights.

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