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Toddler Area


illustration of girl looking at tree stump

The Arboretum's newest feature, located by the Marion Andrus Learning Center, is both a wonderful play destination for young families and a rich "idea place" for preschools, childcares and family backyards.  Its plantings and natural play features show how to bring 'nearby nature' to daily life for our youngest ones, at an age when they are growing and changing quickly and the impact is significant.

Why Green-time for Kids?

A growing body of research shows that regular outdoor playtime contributes to the healthy development and wellbeing of young children in a surprising number of ways. Download the references.


illustration of boy walking on tree log

Plants = Learning + Fun
Plants bring remarkable rewards for a modest investment.  What else could provide a play area with settings, props, habitat, living diversity, sensory wake-ups, comfort and links to the seasons? An early childhood area with fixed plastic or metal play structures alone can limit the options for play. Tidy yards may not have a back corner with loose parts kids can reinvent in their play. When plantings join play equipment and border the activity areas, new possibilities emerge. More collaborative, creative play can result, and a more versatile, comfortable learning environment for young ones and their adults.


illustration of girl on tree disc

Different Ages, Different Stages
The Green Play Yard is 15,000 square feet, the scale of a typical outdoor play area.  It is broken into three age zones: Pre-School Area (for ages 3-5) located at the entrance to the yard, Infant Area (for 0-16 months) in the middle, and Toddler Area (for 16-33 months) at the back of the yard. Each section has features and plantings in tune with the needs of each age group.

  • The Infant Area includes a Crawl-along Garden, Swing in the Trees, Pull-up Stumps, Peek Wall, Bridge with Tickling Grasses
  • The Toddler Area includes a Rolling Hill, Track for Wheeled Play, Vine Tunnel, Shade Arbor, Aspen Woods Path, Hopping Stump, Sand Play Area, Log & Stump Dirt Play Area, Toddler Playhouse, Tiered Multi-use Seating, Tea Party Corner

  • The Pre-School Area includes a Entry Arbor for Green Play Yard, Track for Wheeled Play, Crabapple Corner with Arbor for the Birds / Gathering Place, Dramatic Play Stage with Log Seating, Larger Playhouse + Playtable + Shelves, Fort-start Area, Rottery Corner for Decomposers, Rustic Program Base, Sand & Water Play Area, Stump Circle Dirt Play Area, Climb-on Log

Download the architectural design to see the location of each age zone and the features within.

Download design tips for creating your own play yard.

illustration of boy building fort

Tips for a Great Time
The Play Yard is for ages Birth to 5.
Children need an adult companion with them, to be responsible for their safety. At least one adult per five kids, please.
Families are welcome anytime. To avoid crowding, arrange group visits larger than 10 in advance.
Live plants need their parts; please use only fallen pieces. Let everything stay, for others too.
Help the small trees grow. Please climb on fallen logs only.


The Green Play Yard is made possible through the generosity of many friends of the Arboretum, especially Jack Lake, Gail and Bob Buuck and the Virgil Shroyer family.