Houston Botanic Garden:: Ditch the Screens and Get Out in Nature

This post is sponsored by Houston Botanic Garden. All of our thoughts are proudly our own.

I will be the first to admit that my kids have been on screens entirely too much in the past year. Pandemic parenting has been about survival, and I know I’m not the only one who has let screen time limits fall by the wayside as I’ve navigated these “unprecedented times”. Now that school’s out for summer and things are returning to some version of normal, I am determined to minimize the amount of time my kids are staring at a screen and get them out into nature.

Houston Botanic Garden:: Ditch the Screens and Get Out in Nature
Photo Credit:: Paul Pelc

I wanted to find a place in the Houston area to take the kids that was different than the local parks we’ve frequented many times. After doing some research, I was thrilled to learn about the Houston Botanic Garden and all it has to offer kids right here in our city. Located just south of the 610 Loop and a few blocks east of I-45 near Hobby Airport, the Garden sits on 132 acres of land, previously the Glenbrook Golf Course. It is more than a park; it’s an outside living museum for plants. A family field trip to the Garden would be an excellent opportunity to teach them about nature, plants, irrigation, and more. 

Our family will definitely be making at least one trip to the Houston Botanic Garden this summer, and I’m also considering signing my kids up for a week of BotaniCamp, a 5 day camp for K-5 students. I’m especially interested in the second week, Water Ways, which will make educational use of hands-on water play- a perfect way to beat the scorching Houston heat! 

Engage with Nature

Houston Botanic Garden:: Ditch the Screens and Get Out in Nature
Photo Credit:: Paul Pelc

Research suggests that the more children are exposed to nature, the healthier they are– physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t need research to prove this to me- I experience it in our family each time we get out of the house and spend time in nature for an extended period of time. My kids are calmer, more relaxed, and have more energy. One of my children is strong willed and anxious, and it’s amazing to watch the visible transformation that happens when I get her outside and away from the concrete and strip malls that are our normal life.

Located in the Houston Botanic Garden, the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden gives families ways to engage with nature in hands-on, direct ways. My kids LOVE to explore, get dirty, and be creative when they are outdoors. My five year old, stick-loving little boy will be especially thrilled with all the open-ended play opportunities:: digging and building with sticks, branches and pinecones and engaging with simple water machines. There is also a boardwalk maze around a lagoon and a Pinus taeda {loblolly pine} forest, giving visitors of all ages plenty of space to roam and explore.

Science Lessons

Photo Credit:: Paul Pelc

Science is a crucial subject for kids, and can be so much fun to teach! But children can only learn so much by staring at and interacting with a screen. I know my kids learn best when they are given sensory experiences along with academic information. At the Houston Botanic Garden, science lessons become meaningful and engaging as kids encounter a bayou, wetlands, and a coastal prairie. They can observe interactions between insects and plants, and study how plants improve our water quality. The Garden’s water play installations give kids hands-on experiences with subjects they are studying in school, such as pumps, dams and levers. I know my kids would be all about experiencing water in various ways including manipulating the direction and flow of water. 

An Outdoor Museum

Photo Credit:: Paul Pelc

The Garden is an oasis of learning, discovery and horticultural beauty, which is sure to spark curiosity at every turn for visitors of all ages. I am so excited to bring my family to a place so close to home that’s not only beautiful, but is a source of endless learning.

The Houston Botanic Garden also features two life-sized Curiosity Cabinets, which are ancestors of the modern museum. The Curiosity Cabinets, which are currently empty but will one day hold natural objects of various shapes, sizes, and textures, make great playhouses for children and give them a chance to let their imaginations soar.

And for those really interested in digging into history and learning how plants still greatly influence our modern life, three areas of the Culinary Garden exhibit agricultural techniques that date back centuries. The Mediterranean Terrace, The Harvest, and The Apothecary Corner incorporate the history of farming and the medicinal use of plants into their collection. A visit to The Garden will be a perfect teaching tool for my young kids, who  probably don’t understand the concept that the food they eat doesn’t originate at the grocery store, and that plants can sometimes be used as medicine.

Photo Credit:: Paul Pelc

As I navigate parenting this summer, I am committed to focus on experiences that will get us out in nature and improve our overall health. While learning on screens is possible, there’s no substitute for hands-on, sensory experiences, and I can’t wait to take my kids to Houston Botanic Garden this summer. 

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