I will say up front that neither of my children share my strange obsession with plants: they are not botany geeks. But they have lived with me and know what I like, just as I know what they like. So I took them to the butterfly house.
- Cost: free (not all arboretums are)
- Pets: no
- Terrain: Mostly smooth paths outdoors – pay attention to the weather and prepare for the effects of the Daystar!
We went to the Cox Aboretum in Dayton. I wasn’t sure how the kids would feel about this expedition, although they were both interested in seeing the butterfly house. As soon as we got on the grounds, though, I could see that I’d made the right choice. In the series of ponds there were more turtles, dragonflies, and big fat Koi in one place than they’d seen before. One thing I’d done to help them engage more with the sights was to give them both a camera to use on this visit, and it was very interesting to see the shots they took.
The day was very hot and humid, which led to our keeping the visit here short. Also, I might suggest calling ahead to check and see how much activity is going on in the Butterfly House, because there was one butterfly flying. Fortunately, there were two genial docents who talked to the kids and showed them pupa and caterpillars. We also discovered some other insects which weren’t part of the planned display but were nonetheless interesting.
After the butterfly house we headed to the tower, where the Jr. Mad Scientist opted to keep both her feet firmly on the ground. She’s not fond of heights, but there were benches in the shade and she is never without a book to read. Little Man and I ascended to see the wonderful view, and count the 81 steps to the top. Cox Arboretum has acres of wildflowers, so they stretched out under us like a colorful quilt in the sunshine.
I’d recommend either bringing a field guide to bugs and flowers along, or sitting down with one later, while looking at pictures. Depending on the age of your geeky kids, you could make it into a contest to see who can identify and find the most species. Remind your little gamers that paths are there to walk on, though, and wading into flower patches is very impolite. At their age, I was working on a life-list of plants, which I later abandoned, but for the kid with a lot of interest taking a moleskin journal along to write notes (or even sketch!) in is a terrific idea. Want something to spark more interest? Show them the paintings of a children’s author they are familiar with, Beatrix Potter. Her stories came from her observations of nature.