Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden
A Missouri Adventure Child playing

Children can have a fun-filled adventure while learning about the importance of plants and nature during a visit to the Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The two-acre site, nestled just west of the Climatron®, offers "A Missouri Adventure" for children to explore. There is a waterfall, steamboat, cave, rope bridges, a tree house and other attractions that show how early settlers depended on and interacted with plants and nature. Settings geared for children age 12 and under educate through play and pose learning experiences a child can take home.

Experiences revolve around the interdependence of all of nature — humans, plants, insects and animals — in the varied ecosystems. The ecosystems currently include a wetland, prairie, woodland, pond, river and cave. They are scattered along the four main paths of the Garden.

Gazebo

A visit begins with a walk through a wrought-iron gate that opens onto Adventure Plaza, with a cascading waterfall and large map showing central features of the four paths from which children can choose. The paths crisscross and mingle so that children might follow wherever their interest leads them.

The Adventurer's Path starts with a Spelunker's Slide into a Missouri "limestone cave" where children can see for themselves what a subterranean environment looks like. This path includes an exploration of river life with a chance to "pilot" a steamboat with a working paddle wheel like the one that plied the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers long ago. Children can also look out for birds and other wildlife at the Wetland, which overflows with cattails and lilies during the summer.

The Botanist's Path boardwalk leads into a canopy of Osage orange trees planted by Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw more than 150 years ago. The path connects to the Tree Trunk Pavilion with an elevated view of the area and continues on to a Tree House for visitors to get a birds-eye view of the Children's Garden and more.  

Childrens Garden

Meander down Settler's Path with its covered bridge leading to a small village representing an 1800s prairie town. There’s an ornate gazebo and a general store with examples of how settlers used plants for food, medicine and clothing. The Surveyor’s Office has old maps of the region that show how the area has changed.

Discoverer's Path explores life among the Osage and shows how early prairie dwellers interacted with plants and animals. Rope bridges test the adventurer's balance and coordination. There is access to a small pond with plants, tadpoles, frogs, fish, dragonflies and birds. Just down the path, children can operate a series of locks to regulate the water flow in the Children's Garden River.

Children's class at the Garden

The Children’s Garden Nature Explore Classroom™ is a unique outdoor area designed for children ages 3 through 8. It is the product of collaboration between the National Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation of Lincoln, Neb. Developed as a response to the growing disconnect between children and nature, the Nature Explore Classroom features hands-on natural materials in creative, unstructured play. The classroom areas, separated by native plants, are devoted to nature art, music, creative materials, building materials, and level change (log steps). Each area features opportunities for unstructured play where kids can build with “tree cookies” and blocks, make music with rain sticks and other natural instruments, dance with colorful scarves or make art from plant material, stones and seed pods.

Children's Garden

Throughout the Garden, Missouri native plants are used in most of the landscaping. There's wild ginger (Asarum canadense), with its interesting rice green heart-shaped leaves, and golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), a creamy-yellow perennial that is a wonderful source of food for woodland swallowtail butterflies. Tall coneflowers (Rudbeckia laciniata) sport yellow blooms during July, August and September, and the white ball-shaped flowers of buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentali) draw butterflies.

The Children’s Garden offers staffed, themed “Germination Stations” located at key features throughout the Garden. Stations are designed to cultivate emotional and intellectual connections through multi-sensory experiences that are accessible to all visitors: “Ventures into a Missouri Cave Experience” at the Cave; “Bushels of Fun” at the General Store; “Nature is Fun” at the Nature Explore Classroom; “What’s So Neat About Trees” at the Canopy Climb; “Flowers are More than Beautiful” at the Pollination Garden and “Wetland Wildlife Observations” at the Wetland. Interpreters use questions, conversations, activities and “props” such as head lamps, gardening tools, binoculars, magnifying lenses, fishing nets,  vegetables, plant parts and more to involve the children and their families.

Black-eyed Susan

The Children’s Garden is open April through October from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon are free for Garden members' children and grandchildren and for St. Louis City and County residents. Tuesdays are free all day for Garden members’ children and grandchildren. Family-level Garden members and their children are free every day.

The children of the Donald Schnuck family provided the lead gift to name the Children’s Garden after their mother.

Visit the Children's Garden website.