By Kodi Clifford, Education Assistant
During the last five years, toddler programs at Myriad Botanical Gardens have grown from a single event to a pair of well-crafted programs that encourage toddler socialization, skill development, and an excitement for learning.
Reading Wednesdays has gone from a 15-minute, single book reading to a half-hour storytime experience! Adding song elements and a garden-related craft has really helped capture and hold children’s attention, given 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 saw four or five kids in attendance each week. Currently, we average between 10-12 children per week, and I am proud to say many are regulars. I find that familiarity helps the kiddos become more comfortable expressing themselves in group settings.
Having been moved around a bit with the exciting changes we’ve undergone these past few years, I am happy to say we have finally found the perfect homes for our toddler programs. Every Wednesday at 10 am, in a comfy corner of our Visitor Center, our storytime kiddos snuggle in on carpet squares and in parent laps to listen to the books of the week. Our nature themes are amplified by the sight of the leaves and flowers outside, while at the same time, the area around us is quiet and safe from inclement weather. Outside, the ever-changing living layout of the Children’s Garden leads 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.
Our Little Saplings program has really gained traction in the last year. I began a trial-run of this program last spring and gained a lot of knowledge from it. I found that toddlers learn best with their hands, and through play! In our upcoming classes, we will focus on activities that promote sensory development, learning through movement, fine motor skills, logical thinking, and imaginary play. While teaching, I place a real emphasis on creative thinking when speaking to toddlers, especially during scavenger hunts, and during periods of time where I introduce a nature concept. We talk about how it relates to them and the world around them, which helps them absorb the information in a way that is meaningful to them. We at the Gardens want our programs to cultivate well-rounded learning for ALL ages.
Knowing how therapeutic and nourishing a garden can be, our team strives to shape and support nature enthusiasm from a young age.