Kids bored? Take them to Botanical Gardens for outdoor garden, camps & more

water pump in outdoor Children's Garden at Botanical Gardens in Buffalo NY
Logan Gabriel, 2½, of Buffalo learns he can get water by pushing on the lever of the hand pump in the outdoor children’s garden at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.  Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

In the outdoor children’s garden at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, kids are allowed– and encouraged– to touch the plants and experience the texture of fuzzy and glossy leaves.

They can water the plants or just play with the hand pump. A big attraction is the sandbox, located comfortably in the shade of a tree. There’s a small pond where frogs and turtles have made an appearance.

“There’s lots to explore,” said Kristy Blakely, director of education.

You can reach the outdoor space from the indoor Wegmans Family Garden, which was built in 2013 with a gift from Wegmans, the Western-New-York-based supermarket.

Both spaces are open (weather permitting for the outdoor space) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Avenue, Buffalo.

kids smell mint at Buffalo Botanical Gardens outdoor Children's Garden
Nathalie Ogiba of Lockport and Murphy McDermott of Appleton, both 10, enjoy the aroma of mint. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
fuzzy textured plant in outdoor children's garden in Buffalo Botanical Gardens
Kids can get close to the plants in the outdoor children’s garden. This is Joshua Ogiba, 9, of Lockport.

The children’s gardens are included in the price of admission. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors (ages 55 and older), $6 for students (ages 13 and older), $4 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children 2 and under and Botanical Gardens members.

Scavenger Hunt

Children can look for particular plants on a scavenger hunt– just pick up the sheets for the hunt at the front desk when you enter. There’s a new hunt every month. When you’re done, turn in the sheets to enter to win a family membership to the Botanical Gardens.

Tip: Bring pens or pencils.

The scavenger hunt is included with the price of admission.

Saturday Activities

Children can do a free activity between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays in the Wegmans Family Garden, thanks to a grant from Wegmans. The activities have a food and nutrition theme.

For Saturday, Aug. 9, the scheduled activity is a fruit and seed match. Kids have to match an edible fruit or seed to the plant it comes from.

However, depending on when Morty the corpse flower blooms, the activity may be creating a replica of Morty out of food. Half of a banana (sliced the long way) represents the spadix or pointy part of the flower. It’s set in a coffee filter, which represents the spathe, or frilly part. (See a diagram of the corpse flower here.)

Blakely said that in addition to the signs explaining about the corpse flower, extra signage has been created to point out features of other creepy plants in the Botanical Gardens.

Kids’ Art Camps

Children can still be registered for one of the two remaining weeks of Art Camp, but sessions are limited to 16 campers and spots go quickly, Blakely said.

The week of Aug. 18 is for students ages 10-16 with previous art experience.

The cost for Botanical Gardens members is $95 per week or $19 per day; for non-members, it’s $105 per week or $21 per day. Pre-registration is required and camp forms are due the Wednesday before each camp week. You can register online.

Art Camp is held from 9 a.m. to noon. Children can attend Art Camp in the morning and Junior Botanist Camp in the afternoon; they must bring a lunch.

Art Camp is taught by artist Joan Saba, who also teaches the adult water color classes, adult drawing classes and children’s art classes at the Botanical Gardens. She is assisted by volunteer Jeannette Williams.

Junior Botanist Camp

Children can still be registered for the two remaining weeks of Junior Botanist Camp, but sessions are limited to 16 campers and spots go quickly, Blakely said.

The week of Aug. 11 is for children ages 5 -12 and has a theme of survival adventure. The week of Aug. 18 is Horticulture Camp, an advanced take on the Junior Botanist Camp where kids ages 10-16 can delve a little deeper into gardening.

The cost for Botanical Gardens members is $95 per week or $19 per day; for non-members, it’s $105 per week or $21 per day. Pre-registration is required and camp forms are due the Wednesday before each camp week. Get registration information here.

Junior Botanist Camp is held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Children can attend Art Camp in the morning and Junior Botanist Camp in the afternoon; they must bring a lunch.

Junior Botanist Camp is led by Jolene Bojar, education coordinator, and Amanda Oldham, education assistant, with help from Monique Hauck-Mitchell, an intern from the University at Buffalo.

Birthday parties

You can hold your child’s birthday party at the Botanical Gardens.

There are four themes to choose from, and Blakely said the fairy garden theme is the most popular. Prices start at $9 per child.

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