Fort Worth Botanic Gardens

We spent a beautiful day in Fort Worth. We started at Casa Manana to see the play Brer Rabbit. Brer Rabbit has lost his tail! How in the world will he get it back? He'll have to outsmart Brer Fox and Brer Bear in this American classic set to the tune of a banjo and many old-time musical instruments played live onstage.

I used to love this story when I was little so I couldn't wait to take my own kids to see it. My favorite part has always been when Brer Rabbit is captured by Brer Fox and he says, "Oh please, Brer Fox! You can do anything to me but just don't throw me in that briar patch!" So of course, Brer Fox throws him in the briar patch which just happens to be Brer Rabbit's home.

I acted out these lines for my kids as we were driving to Fort Worth for the play. They loved my different voices and dramatic play so they laughed and asked me to do it again. And again. And again.

It's a long drive to Fort Worth sometimes.

I took this picture as we were sitting in our seats before the play started. Rachel was very squirmy. She visited with neighbors sitting next to us that we didn't know. She tried to crawl under her seat. She tried to crawl over her seat.

I remember all of this from when Nicholas was two years old. Somehow I thought it was just because he was a very active boy. Somehow I thought my sweet little girl would be a little more calm. But then again, she's two.

She usually does well at Casa Manana plays because they are geared for kids and there is always lots of colorful costumes, props, and sets. And lots of action to catch her attention. Once the play started she did calm down a lot. She watched a lot of the play from her seat and sat in my lap for some of it. However, this particular play had a rustic, dull colored set of a southern shack and the characters wore regular overalls and stood in one place for longer than usual.

We saw almost the whole play. But Rachel started trying to squirm away so that she could explore the center aisle of the theater and she was getting upset (and loud) when I told her she wasn't allowed to do that. I had to call it quits but we left in the middle of the very last song so we didn't really miss much. Ahh, I believe we are full-blown in the midst of the "terrible twos".

So with all the energy between my two little ones, I decided to grab some lunch and take them somewhere that they could burn some of that energy off. We headed down the street to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.

I know I've mentioned this before but the best place to take kids here is the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk which has tons of interesting stations with interactive activites to learn about nature.

Plus you will also find this huge resin hollow log that your kids will just have to explore.

In all directions.

What is particularly fabulous about the boardwalk is all of the interactive educational kiosks along the way. Kids just love them and it makes for a great fun way to learn about nature.

This kiosk shows tree leaves and then the child lifts the flap to learn the name of the actual tree.

Nicholas got excited over this leaf. He said he had just seen one on the sidewalk and ran over to pick it up and bring it back to compare. I loved his excitement and was proud that he was so observant, even it he didn't exactly have the same leaf.

We went over to the tree that his leaf had fallen from and learned that the actual leaves of the tree looked a bit different and that what he had found on the ground was a part of the seed to help it travel in the wind.

We recently talked about temperature and thermometers so Nicholas was quick to tell me the temp when he saw this thermometer at one of the stations.

Along parts of the concrete sidewalk there are animal track imprints. Rachel enjoyed trying to fit her hand into each and every one of the prints that she found with no regard for how long such a task might actually take. Please understand that this mentality is why it takes me forever for me to get anywhere on time when she is with me.

On our way to the Gardens, we stopped for lunch at Braum's. I thought the kid's meal toys was cool because it was a little explorer's "backpack" complete with a journal and pencil. Nicholas decided it would be his nature journal and he took it along for our walk. He often stopped to draw pictures of leaves and bugs that he found. I love this because drawing what he sees not only brings art into nature but also by reproducing what he sees, he reinforces learning about that particular object.

And there were lots of cool leaves and bugs to be found on this little walk. Starting with this cute little Doodlebug right here.

Do you call these Doodlebugs? Nicholas has only heard them referred to as Roly Polys. Do they call them Doodlebugs in Texas or is that just a Louisiana thing?

Nicholas wanted to be sure to let Rachel hold the Doodlebug/Roly Poly too.

The two of them quit paying attention to the kiosks that we came to see and got totally absorbed in looking at bugs on the ground AROUND the kiosk.

Nicholas found this cool caterpillar crawling along a bench.

Of course, he had to include the caterpillar in his nature journal.

We learned about the many ways that people use trees and how we rely on them everyday for basic things like wood and paper.

Rachel found a new use for them. Use their branches to poke down between planks on the bench. What fun!

I love this picture. Here we are at the beautiful Botanic Gardens on the boarwalk area where all of these great pre-planned activities about nature are and my children are ignoring it all and having more fun exploring nature on their own.

It's important to let nature guide kids and let them do their own thing without a bunch of scheduled and pre-planned activities. That's the best way for them to learn and to find joy in their own discoveries.

It may be hard to see in this picture but Rachel is watching a little caterpillar walk along the border of the sidewalk.

Here he is up close.

We stepped off the path for a moment and I discovered this Ginko Bilboa tree. I've never seen this tree in person and I was kind of proud of myself for being able to guess its name.

While I was looking at the trees, Rachel was visited by a ladybug.

As we looked around some more, we found lots of ladybugs.

Then the kids looked more closely at the leaves around us and they found lots of ladybug larvae.

Then they found a bunch of pupa. It was really fascinating to see three stages of a ladybug life cycle all in this one patch of plants.

This is another cool kiosk that shows bird eggs and you try to guess the type of bird.

Throughout the boardwalk, there are these sound tubes that transmit whispers of a sound across longer than expected distances. It's fun to watch kids talk to each other through them.

Nicholas is great at noticing the tiniest of little bugs. And he loves to share what he sees and what he has learned with Rachel.

My children are definitely part fish. If they hear even the faintest sound of running water, they are drawn it like moths to light.

And here, Mommy misses an opportunity (intentionally!) to talk about the birds and the bees...

Rachel just enjoyed running back and forth over the bridge...and back, and forth, and back, and forth...

She had fun looking for bugs just like big brother. And she's a little bit closer to the ground which makes it a little easier for her to notice them!

I wonder why my roses don't look like this?

Maybe it's because all of my free time is spent with these two little blessings....who are once again attracted to the water.

Isn't this a beautiful view? How I would love to just sit on a blanket under this shady tree with a cup of tea and a good book. Ahhh! Maybe someday when the kids are older I'll come back to this spot and do just that.

Running water. The most exciting thing in the garden to my kids.

I just love that they are so excited and passionate about nature and the outdoors. I hope to continue to grow that passion in them and the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is a great place to do that and it's free!

Even though we are at a garden, we somehow always spend lots of time hanging out at the fish tank. Today it was nice to sit on a bench in the air conditioning after a long walk through the gardens and sip on some cold water while the kids were entertained by the fish next to us.

The Fort Worth Botanic Gardens are located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107, (817) 871-7686. The Gardens are free but there is a small fee to enter the Conservatory and Japanese Garden. For more information, please visit the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens website. You can also follow them on Facebook.

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