5 Children's Gardens Your Kids Will Really Dig

Amanda Collins Bernier
Baystateparent Magazine

The Ramble at New England Botanic Garden

BOYLSTON - Willow Limpert, 3, of Leominister runs ahead of her brother, Jacob, 2, through a tunnel sculpture in The Ramble, New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill's new 1.5-acre "family garden." 

The Ramble, a whimsical 1.5-acre garden, is described as “not a playground, not just garden, but somewhere in between.” It officially opened in May at the sprawling botanical garden in Boylston, formerly known as Tower Hill. With fully accessible paths and immersive activities, The Ramble draws families in ways not possible at Tower Hill in the past. Children can climb and scramble tree stumps in the “Stumerpy,” crawl through a tunnel of woven branches, or play lawn games in the grass. Still, it has the stately beauty you’d expect from a botanical garden. Landscaped with hundreds of perennials, shrubs, and trees, it features a brook, a pond, and waterfall. 

There’s also an outcrop amphitheater, a pavilion for outdoor classes, picnic tables, and quiet spots for reading or drawing. A forage garden with edible plants will be used to teach children where food comes from.

Family-friendly amenities at The Ramble include bathrooms and handwashing stations. Inside, there is a Mamava lactation pod for breastfeeding or pumping parents. 

The entire 170-acre NEBG campus, with its 18 distinct gardens, open woodland spaces, hiking trails and apple orchard, is family friendly and they boast unique offerings for children and families. They hold workshops like fairy house making and insect safaris, themed week-long celebrations over school vacations, and Garden Bud classes geared toward preschoolers. 

NEBG is offering free admission the first Thursday of month throughout the summer. Tickets can be reserved online and are on a first-come first-served basis. They are also open for extended hours on Thursdays throughout the summer to enjoy lawn games, live music and more. More information at nebg.org.

Weezie’s Garden for Children at The Garden at Elm Bank 

Weezie's Garden for Children

Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Garden at Elm Bank in Wellesley boasts this playful garden for kids. Inspired by an unfurling fern, the garden layout mimics a series of fern fronds, each ‘frond’ or ‘room’ offering a different theme to engage the senses. Rooms include a pollinator garden, backyard wildlife garden, and more. 

A highlight of this garden is the misting water feature surrounded by colorful stones. The stones are petrified wood, a form of fossil, which ties into the prehistoric plants and ginkgo tree growing nearby.

Stop to smell the fragrant flowers in the Pollinator Garden, which support different pollinators, such as bees, moths, and butterflies. Then, feel the fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear and mullein as you settle into the birds’ nests of the Backyard Wildlife Garden. Listen to the babbling water in the New England Waterways Garden and search for fish and tadpoles hiding in the shade of plants that grow there. Look for themes like a Native American Garden and a Victory Garden.

Weezie’s Garden for Children is among 16 distinct gardens at the 36-acre Garden at Elm Bank, including a Goddess Garden, Temple and Asian Garden, and a Maple Grove where concerts, picnics and events are held. 

Massachusetts Horticultural Society hosts an array of youth and family programs. Drop-in programs are offered three mornings a week: Garden Tails Story Time on Mondays and Wednesdays and Family Fun in the Garden on Saturdays. Throughout the year, seasonal events feature activities geared toward children and families, including Christmas in July from July 23-31. 

The Garden at Elm Bank is open daily, April 1 through Oct. 31. Children 12 and under are free. More at masshort.org.

Weezie's Garden for Children

Children’s Discovery Garden at the Berkshire Botanical Garden 

Children's Discovery Garden at the Berkshire Botanical Garden

A day trip to Stockbridge offers plenty for kids at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. The Children’s Discovery Garden is an interactive garden with a colorful purple playhouse, food crops and flowers. Playful features include a fairy garden and a tic tac toe set carved from wood. 

Children will love venturing into the other 30+ gardens at the 24-acre center, including an Edible Garden (sampling is allowed!), a wide-open Meadow Walk where they can run amid the wildflowers, and a new Topiary Garden featuring 21 “live” sculptures including a water-spouting elephant and other creatures. You’ll also want to check out The Fitzpatrick Conservatory, an historic curved glass house, home to a containerized collection of succulents and tropical plants.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Rose Garden will be in bloom in June, and its historic Daylily Walk will be blooming in late July. A series of Monday evening concerts kicks off on July 12. 

The grounds are open daily, May 1 through Oct. 31, 9-5 p.m. Children under 12 are free. More at berkshirebotanical.org

The Herb Garden at the Berkshire Botanical Garden.

Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museums & Gardens 

Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museum and Gardens.

Located on 100 acres on the banks of Shawme Pond in Sandwich, Heritage Museums and Gardens have something for everyone, and something extra special for kids. The two-acre Hidden Hollow, designed for children between the ages of 2-10, is a place for exploration of the outdoors with a variety of play areas and monthly themes. Children can climb stepping stumps, navigate log balance beams, construct forts, create nature-inspired art, build with blocks, dig in sand, experiment with water, make music, engage in sensory investigation with plants, and more.

The most popular feature in Hidden Hollow is the splash area, which allows kids to safely experiment with water and its properties. There is also a Discovery Trail with a StoryWalk, a grassy space for running and rolling, a building area, treehouse and even “bee hotels.” 

Hidden Hollow is one of the first certified Nature Explore Classrooms in New England and was the first certified Nature Explore Classroom at a museum. 

Outside of Hidden Hollow, Heritage offers three gallery buildings housing permanent exhibits of world-class automobiles, a working vintage carousel, American folk art, and featured special exhibitions. You can wander through collections of hydrangeas, daylilies, hostas, herb, heather gardens, and more than a thousand varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers along beautiful and easily walked paths.

Heritage will host several family-friendly events throughout the summer, including food truck nights, Wampanoag Heritage Day, and an Earth Extravaganza Day. 

Heritage Museums and Gardens is open from April 23 to Oct. 16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. More at heritagemuseumsandgardens.org

Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museums and Gardens.

Shrewsbury Secret Garden

Secret Garden in Shrewsbury

Off a residential street in Shrewsbury, a shady path full of wonder and whimsy loops through the woods. Known as the “Secret Garden,” it’s the pet project of a man who goes by Chief Joseph, and welcomes the young and young at heart to wander through – free of charge. 

The path starts right at the pond on Stoney Hill Rd., just at the intersection of Nightingale Drive. There is plenty of free street parking. 

Along the pond you’ll find various artwork, statues, benches and a towering totem pole. A Little Free Library offers free books for kids and adults. Then, the path branches off to the left, into the woods and along a stream – and this is where it gets truly magical. 

There is whimsical artwork and statues hidden in every nook cranny of this short, woodsy path. Look up, look down – there are little details everywhere. Inspirational quotes are dotted among the trees, sparkling baubles dangle from branches, and wind chimes make music in the breeze. There’s spaces to sit next the stream, footbridges to cross, and even a display of painted rocks to explore. 

The real hit with the kids are the seemingly endless statues and sculptures that greet them along the path. There’s a giant stone turtle, a Big Foot, a Santa Claus, and a towering castle. A favorite among the little ones is the massive sitting bear nestled among the trees. His giant, open paw makes the perfect place to sit for a photo. 

Shrewsbury Secret Garden