Children’s Garden

Explore, learn, and play among trees and the natural world.

Content Detail

Plan Your Visit

While visiting our Children’s Garden, please:

  • Stay with your children at all times.
  • Climb on play structures only, not on living trees.
  • Respect and care for plants and animals.
  • Deposit all trash in the bins provided.
  • Do not smoke. The Morton Arboretum is a tobacco-free environment. Smoking and tobacco use (including smokeless cigarettes) is not allowed indoors or outdoors within the Arboretum.
  • Leave, pets, bicycles, alcohol, grills, and active sports at home.

Picnicking and facilities

The Children’s Garden picnic area is open to all guests unless reserved for a special program or event. Carryout lunches, boxed water, and other beverages are available at the Ginkgo Café in the Visitor Center. You may also bring your own food. Alcohol is prohibited in the Children’s Garden.

Especially on hot days, we advise drinking plenty of water. Restrooms are located in Central Plaza, near the Children’s Garden picnic area.

First aid and security

Volunteers and staff are available throughout the Garden to assist you and provide first aid, if necessary. 


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Access and Inclusion

The Children’s Garden welcomes guests of all abilities and strives to create a safe, enjoyable, and engaging experience for all.

The majority of the Children’s Garden is accessed by paved paths and accessible wooden bridges. The typical grade is 2%. Several areas of the Garden have additional routes of entry by a rope bridge, stairs, or ladders. Accessible restrooms, including a family restroom, are located in the Central Plaza near the picnic pavilion. The partially covered picnic area, with accessible picnic tables, is typically available whenever the Children’s Garden is open.

Guests who have sensory processing needs may borrow (at no cost by leaving an ID) a sensory bag containing headphones, fidgets, visuals, and other calming tools. See the image below. These sensory bags can be checked out in the Visitor’s Center or from any Children’s Garden staff or volunteer team member.

Families may also utilize the following resources to help with a visit to the Children’s Garden:

  • A social story to help prepare your child for their visit to the Children’s Garden.
  • An activity Choice Board to help children communicate using pictures of activities in the Children’s Garden that they want to engage in. A visual schedule sheet and First/Then card are both available to provide structured and predictable activities for your child.
  • A proprioceptive activity board that provides examples of “heavy work” or “deep” pressure activities to help your child feel calmer in an overstimulating environment.
  • A sensory map to identify sensory triggers and quiet areas within the Children’s Garden if your child needs a calming break.

We continually work to remove barriers to participation in all of our programs. With guidance from our youth and family programs inclusion coordinator, we are available to discuss adaptations to activities that meet your individual needs.

We welcome inquiries from individual families as well as from organizations that serve people with disabilities. Please contact us at anytime to begin to plan your trip to the Children’s Garden!

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Fun For All Ages

Toddlers: Discovering nature

Young children learn through play and use of their senses. Spend more time in a few areas of the Garden instead of trying to visit every area. Encourage your toddler to explore with their eyes, ears, and hands, but discourage behavior that is harmful to the child or plants. What is the softest leaf you can find? Which is the sweetest smelling flower? The most colorful plant? Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the Garden.

3 to 5 years: Exploring their world

Preschoolers are naturally curious, eager to explore, and learn best through play with real objects. Support your child’s developing sense of independence by letting them choose where to go and what to do.

Point out interesting things and let your child share discoveries—conversation will help their developing language skills, too.

The Garden’s large, colorful flowers, fruits, and seeds beckon kids to play and giant acorns beg to be climbed. 

6 to 8 years: Making connections

Children in early elementary grades gain a deeper understanding of the world when they make connections between what they learn at school, at home, and at the Arboretum. Help your child recognize similarities between the things in this garden and other places.

Talk about what they are learning in school and how it applies to what they find at the Arboretum. How many tree leaf shapes can you recognize? Are there any trees you haven’t seen before?

9 to 12 years: Building their understanding further

Older children are more attuned to details and relationships among things. Use the Garden as a laboratory for your child to identify trees, observe plant and animal interactions, or study design.

Spend time playing in Adventure Woods, and focus on details that interest your child in the Backyard Discovery Gardens. Look at the plants and animals living in this pond. Can you find one that looks like a segmented green stalk? Watch all the insects that land on it to rest. 

12 and up: Applying knowledge

Middle school students can become youth volunteers in the Children’s Garden and beyond, presenting nature activities to younger children.

Adults: Gathering inspiration

The Garden landscape offers ideas for the home. Look for labels or ask a staff member to identify a specimen.

Visit the Arboretum’s Plant Clinic, at the Visitor Center, for more information about plants in the Children’s Garden. 

If you enjoy spending time in the Garden, consider becoming a volunteer!


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Safety Precautions

We rely on you to help the Arboretum remain a safe place for all to enjoy. If you are not feeling well, please refrain from visiting until you are fully recovered.

Here are a few things we are doing to keep the Children’s Garden a safe place to visit:

  • Enhanced cleaning: Garden features and amenities are sanitized frequently throughout the day.
  • Restrooms: The Children’s Garden restrooms are open for use and are cleaned and sanitized frequently.

As a reminder, advance, online timed-entry tickets are required for all guests to enter the Arboretum on weekends. Members can enter the Arboretum without advanced tickets any day. Guest tickets are not available at the Gatehouse. A separate ticket is not required for the Children’s Garden.


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