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Self Guided-Family Play and Exploration: Signs of Spring

Fees and Registration

(Fees include admission to the Arboretum)

Course description

The snow drops are blooming in spring.

After the stillness of winter, spring brings an exuberance of color, sound, texture, and smell!

Take a family walk to notice early signs of the season such as snowdrops or daffodils in neighborhood parks, or the first wildflowers in the woods. Look for tree buds opening to flowers or leaves. Listen for birds singing or returning from migration. Gently feel the soft moss on a fallen log and take in the fresh earth smell of the damp soil. Linger in the moment and wonder together at the comforting seasonal rhythms of nature.

Extend your spring exploration with these family activity suggestions from our early childhood team:


Gather sticks, twigs, large old leaves, pinecones, and other natural materials you find fallen on the ground to create your own natural art piece.

Use the sticks to create a frame. Bind the sticks with ribbon, yarn, string, or pipe cleaners, or keep them loose to make different shapes. Arrange the other natural materials inside your frame. You could create a favorite animal, bird, or insect, a self-portrait, or an abstract design. Depending on where you are creating the art piece, you could add sidewalk chalk, washable paint, egg cartons, cardboard boxes, scrap paper, or other materials from around your home. Snap a photo of your finished piece and share it with others!

A variety of twigs have been gathered on a table.



Abracadabra, It’s Spring by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal.
This magical book perfectly captures the exciting transformations happening all around us in spring. Notice the amazing detail on every page and wonder which of the seasonal changes depicted in the book you might notice on a walk in your woods.

The cover of the book Abracadabra.


All plants need water and dirt to grow. Explore these essential spring elements with some puddle and mud play!

Grab some old kitchen containers and utensils, or even beach toys, and head out to your backyard for some messy play. Designate a corner of your yard as a “Mud Kitchen” or take a closer look at the puddles you can be sure to find everywhere at this time of year: wonder about how they arrived, how long they will stay, and who they may help. A stick can help explore their depths, a rock could test their splash zones, and a leaf may even set sail on them if the wind is just right.


Pretend to be a plant. How would you look and feel as a seed? How might your seed wake up and grow into a sprout? Don’t forget to grow some roots too! How can you grow into a beautiful flower or a tall, strong tree? Invent your own spring-inspired yoga poses or dance moves. Is there a gardener who can help you grow? What else can you pretend to be? A butterfly? A bird?


For Older Siblings

Spring is a great time to track changes in the world around us. If you like taking photos, snap daily or weekly close-up pictures of the changes that are happening in spring for a time lapse montage. You can even upload your observations to national databases that help researchers and decision-makers ensure the continued vitality of our environment. The Nature’s Notebook program, for example, collects observations of over 1,300 plants and animals. You can add your own starting this very day!

Self Guided-Family Play and Exploration: Signs of Spring