By Michelle Farris
Rain or shine means rain or shine for the Fiddleheads Forest parent-child classes at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle.
At these drop-in, two-hour classes, kids and their caregivers explore the Arboretum, learn about nature and make fun art projects. Waterproof boots, pants and coats are a must – puddle jumping is practically mandatory.
I enrolled my two boys (ages 2 and 4), and they have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Arboretum with a pack of muddy preschoolers, guided by teachers Mikhail Tatrin and Sarah Heller. The kids hike (parents in tow), examine leaves and mushrooms, observe ducks, crawl through brush like little Gore-Tex bears, smell flowers and splash in every available slick of water or mud.
Class starts in a greenhouse at the Arboretum, with stations for the kids to explore, usually including sensory bins, story books, painting and smells or textures. After about 15 minutes, the group gathers up and sets out on an exploration walk through the Arboretum. Each week is themed, and the walk is punctuated by themed activities and story time. Afterwards, the kids troop back to the greenhouse for an arts and crafts project.
During the “animal senses” class, my sons loved exploring scented Kool-aid finger paint and chai tea play dough. The boys walked through the gardens, tuned in to the smells of the Daphne, cedars and moldering leaves. They listened for birds, and stopped to feel sunshine on their faces. We examined daffodils emerging from the leaf mulch. After class, both kids fell asleep on the ten-minute ride home, and napped soundly.
Upcoming class themes include vegetable gardens, birds in spring, decomposers and flowers. Story time under a tree has never been so fun!
If you go ...
Who: Children ages 2-5 and their caregivers. The group maximum is 12 children.
When: New classes starts April 8. Mondays 1–3 p.m.; Tuesdays 9:30–11:30 a.m.; Wednesdays: 1–3 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m.–noon; Fridays 9:30–11:30 a.m.
Where: Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle. Meet at the greenhouse at the south end of the Graham Visitor Center parking lot
Cost: $16/class for a parent and child; or $72 for the six-class session for a parent and child ($108 for 1 parent and 2 children)
About the author: Michelle Farris is an attorney, and lives in North Seattle with her husband and two spirited boys.