Over the past four years, toddler programs at the Myriad Gardens have grown from a single event to two well-crafted programs that encourage toddler socialization, development, and an excitement for learning.
Building up Reading Wednesdays from a 15-minute storytime held in an empty corner of our lobby, to the solid program that it is today, has been such a true joy! Adding song elements and a garden-related craft really helps capture and hold the children’s attention, gives them a sense of community with the little ones around them, and reminds them what they’ve learned from the books we’ve read together. When I first started working at the Gardens, Reading Wednesdays would see maybe five kids each week. Right now, we average about twelve per week, and we are proud to say many are regulars. I find that familiarity helps the kiddos become more comfortable expressing themselves in group settings.
While trial-running our Little Saplings program last year, I quickly concluded that toddlers learn best with their hands! Thus, I began focusing on toddler activities on sensory development, movement, fine motor skills, logical thinking, and imaginary play. While teaching programs, I place a real emphasis on out-of-the-box thinking when speaking to toddlers, especially during scavenger hunts, and during what I refer to as ‘Topic Talks’; periods of time where I introduce a nature concept, and we talk about how it relates to them and the world around them. We at the Myriad Gardens want our programs to cultivate well-rounded learning for ALL ages.
Beginning this year with a major Visitor Center renovation coming to completion, I searched to find the proper fit for the programs in the new space. Despite the challenge, I’ve found a set up that really functions well, especially with the introduction of carpet squares for Reading Wednesday, as well as fun new furniture pieces in our reading space. These items really help reading time feel like a fixture in our Visitor Center. Similarly, the ever-changing living layout of the Children’s Garden lends to a sense of wonder and discovery during Little Saplings, paving the way for surprise learning opportunities, such as stumbling upon tadpoles inhabiting the pond or watching a bird building a nest.
Knowing how therapeutic and nourishing a garden can be, I strive to shape and support nature enthusiasm from a young age.