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Gardening & More: Children can learn and have fun in the new, indoor Wegmans family garden

WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE? — Children are encouraged to touch the plants in the new Wegmans family garden at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Erin Leith, 7, and Courtney Leith, 6, experience the textures of leaves, together.
BUFFALO — Children can enjoy free play and structured activities in the new indoor Wegmans family garden at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, located at 2655 South Park Ave. in Buffalo.

A grand opening for the new indoor space, which provides hands-on activities for children that help them learn about plants and nutrition, was held Jan. 21.

The Wegmans family garden is located in a sunny, 800-square-foot greenhouse, where it feels like springtime, even in the coldest weather. The space provides an area for the Botanical Gardens to offer year-round, educational programming for children. The new space adjoins the outdoor children’s garden.

The Wegmans family garden was built with a $46,000 gift from Western New York-based supermarket Wegmans. Many volunteers donated hundreds of hours of time, to create the new family garden.

Play spaces include a potting table, water pump, sand box, fruit and vegetable garden and craft spaces.

FOR THE BIRDIES — Abigail Bizub, 10, Jessica Bizub, 7 and Amelia Matikosh, 4, make bird feeders, using toasted oat cereal.
During the grand opening, Botanical Gardens volunteer Carol Fronczak helped children string circles of toasted oat cereal onto pipe cleaners or chenille stems, to make a feeder that they could hang in a tree, to feed birds.

“It’s a simple project,” she said. “They enjoy it and they can take it home with them.”

PLEASE GROW — Ryan Sledz, 9, carefully waters newly-planted seeds. Activities are offered on Saturdays in the new indoor Wegmans family garden.
At another station, children inserted a moist paper towel into a clear plastic cup, to create a growing medium for mung beans. When the beans sprout, the children will be able to see the parts of the plant, including its roots, stem and leaves, and they will be able to munch on the sprouts.

Another project had children grinding wheat berries, to understand where flour comes from.

“At Wegmans, we love our veggies and we are always trying to get everyone to eat their recommended five servings a day,” said Buffalo Wegmans Consumer Affairs Manager Theresa Jackson. “Helping children learn that fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and grains are plants before they become food is a step toward having children make healthy food choices.”

Admission to the Wegmans family garden is included with paid admission, or with membership to the Botanical Gardens.

Regular food-themed programming will take place from 10:30 – 11 a.m. and 11 – 11:30 a.m. each Saturday, except March 30, in the family garden.

Programs are appropriate for children ages 4 – 10.

Upcoming activities will include:

– Jan. 26: Wheat berry-grinding and seed planting.

– Feb. 2: Bean mosaic art.

– Feb. 9: Paint-a-pot activity.

– Feb. 16: Fun fruit squeeze.

– Feb. 23: Edible toast art.

– March 2: Potato stampers.

– March 9: Eggshell planter.

– March 16: St. Patrick’s Day salad.

– March 23: Wheat berry Easter critter.

– April 6: Butter dance party.

– April 13: Pizza garden.

– April 20: Food composter.

– April 27: Honey bee activity.

– May 4: Ice cream party.

– May 11: Fruit prints.

– May 18: Cereal mosaic.

– May 25: Orange pomander.

Connie Oswald Stofko is the publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.


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