Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden: Education and Exploration for Kids
The new Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is an outstanding addition to the already beautiful landscape of Bok Tower Gardens. It’s a fantastic place for kids to explore nature. Recently, I took my toddler Grandson to Hammock Hollow, and what an awesome time
he we had! The environment was not only fun but extremely educational. We spent several hours there and his curious mind never stopped exploring the unfamiliar territory. It was the perfect place for my inquisitive little guy. It seemed as if there were interesting surprises around every corner. My 3-year-old is eager to learn about the natural world, and there was no better place than the hands-on classroom of Hammock Hollow to educate him.
Site Map of Hammock Hollow: 17 Unique Areas
Upon arriving at Hammock Hollow, it’s beneficial to take a look at the site map for the Children’s Garden. You’ll notice that it’s divided into 17 different areas. According to your child’s age and interests, some sections may be better than others. I’ll list a few of the ones that my Grandson, Apollo, liked.
TIP: It’s a good idea to print a copy of the site map and have it available when you arrive. You can download a copy of Hammock Hollow Site Map here, directly from the Bok Tower Gardens website.
We began our garden adventure by entering through the keystone gate. The kid-size entrance is just the right size for little ones. Grandma’s can go through here too, just don’t forget to duck! This area was a gift from the Bok Family.
The pebble mosaics were really cool. There were both large and small ones, including a woodpecker, gopher turtle, and firefly. Apollo has a fetish for any kind of rocks. On any given day his pockets are filled with them. So it goes without saying that he was fascinated by the artwork made with these colorful little stones. Sculptor Kevin Carman created the masterpieces that perfectly complimented the entrance. This area was a gift from Alexis and Jim Pugh.
I’m not usually a fan of snakes, not even the caged kind. But this humongous pebble mosaic snake sculpture seemed like a friendly fellow. This lifeless reptile encircled a tot-sized sand area complete with sand pails and shovels. What a fun way to help young children develop motor skills. The area has a sunscreen overhead to allow the kids to linger a little longer. I really love exotic bamboo trees, so I was happy to see them planted as a backdrop to the sand play area. I’m looking forward to seeing their growth in a few years as they tower over this twisty serpent. Indigo Pass was a gift from Frank and Carol Drake.
As a Florida resident for the past 17 years, one thing I learned very quickly was that the Sunshine State has 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest! Obviously the designers of Hammock Hollow learned that lesson too. I’m sure that’s why they created the sparkling springs of River Walk. It’s the perfect place for the children to cool off. There are misters, spray jets, foggers, and fountains. This area is paradise for any rock-climbing tyke. River Walk was a gift from Publix Super Markets Charities.
This is a good time to remind you to pack a change of clothes for your child (or maybe 2 or 3!). And don’t forget the sunscreen — remember that Florida heat I told you about? Even in the winter months the sun’s rays can have dangerous UV levels.
Along the Ledge Walk kids will have a blast exploring all the little nooks and crannies in these huge rock formations. The fern-covered rocks represent Florida’s remarkable karst limestone history. The Florida Peninsula is a porous plateau of limestone that was formed many millions of years ago. Another great opportunity for a brief history lesson for your child. As parents, you may want to read up on the Geology of Florida before you go. (Your kids will think you are so smart!)
Edward Bok Word Garden
Edward Bok was a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and also the publisher of one of the finest magazines of yesteryear, the Ladies Home Journal. You can imagine the importance of “words” to a man with such creative writing talents. The Edward Bok Word Garden is an area dedicated to his memory. Unlike the other sections of the Children’s Garden that serve as outlets for physical play, this one is more reflective. Here, the beautiful stones each have an inspirational word etched in them — words that teach our children about qualities that make the world a better place. Pick up a few of the rocks at random and take the opportunity to teach your child about the importance of peace, joy, beauty, caring, and success. It’s also fun moving the stones around to create sentences or phrases. After some exhilarating physical exercise, take a moment to rest in the Word Garden. It will rejuvenate the body and soul.
Fence Swift Stumpery and Fox Den
Without question, the Fence Swift Stumpery and Fox Den was one of Apollo’s favorite areas at Hammock Hollow. My little dude loves to run, jump, and climb on things. At the Fox Den there was a log climb that challenged Apollo to take it slow and focus on balance. The Fence Swift Stumpery garden proves that even tree stumps can be beautiful and useful. It was inspired by the acrobatic lizards that are native to Florida. Although we have many species here, I like watching Geckos. It’s pretty interesting to see how they use their tails while leaping from place to place. This sprawling area under a shady oak hammock was the perfect spot for Apollo to put his best Gecko imitation to the test.
Doodle Bug Art Place
The Doodle Bug Art Place is an area to encourage young artists to display their artistic ability. The paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils are provided. The tables are made from wood and the seats from tree logs. When finished, the child can proudly showcase their drawings with the other Hammock Hollow guests by hanging the artwork on a clothes-line type apparatus secured with a clothes pin. Who knows… the next Van Gogh might just be discovered here at Hammock Hollow! The Doodle Bug Art Place was a gift from The Herndon Family Foundation.
Songbird Music Tree
The Songbird Music Tree is the perfect spot for your budding musician. Here, you’ll find several tuned acoustic instruments that encourage hands-on activity. Depending on your child’s age, this would be a great opportunity to introduce them to the rich musical heritage of Bok Tower Gardens. The nearby rope hammocks are another great place for parents and kids to rest. The Songbird Music Tree area was a gift from The Ruth V. Marchione Foundation.
Another of Apollo’s favorite activities at Hammock Hollow was the Spider Climb. It’s a gigantic spider-web-inspired structure that allows children to weave their way through this enormous faux web. But be careful, keeping your balance while others are maneuvering the web can be quite challenging.
Hammock Hollow has a beautiful winding boardwalk that twists and turns along a Cypress grove. They’ve strategically placed bird feeding stations in the Bird Hollow section and added special plants that attract wildlife, birds, and butterflies. Few children have actually caught a butterfly, but most of them enjoy the difficult task of trying. Apollo does, for sure!
The fundraising efforts certainly paid off for this amazing project — raising over $16 million dollars in donations, far exceeding their initial goals. I found Hammock Hollow, the new interactive children’s garden at Bok Tower Gardens, to be fun for the entire family. The interactive areas encompass 3+ acres, and do an outstanding job of representing Florida’s varied ecosystems.
It did my heart good to see so many children engaging in outdoor activity. Some of my fondest childhood memories include playing outside after school, on weekends, or any chance I had. Decades later, I still remember those mud pies! But it’s a different world now. With the age of rapid technological advances, oftentimes we depend on our [very young] children to educate us regarding computers, cell phones, and most other wired devices. We must keep up with this “wired” world, or get left behind. Not minimizing that, my concern is that children are missing out on healthy physical exercise, not to mention the overall learning experiences that are only found in the classroom of nature. And, Apollo felt like a million dollars after his outdoor adventure!
Leave No Child Inside — Nature Play is Healthy
There is growing research about the positive impact of nature play for children. This type of unstructured play in the outdoors has proven beneficial for a child’s social, emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being. I highly recommend a best-selling book by Richard Louv entitled “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.” It talks about the great divide between children and the outdoors, with possible links to childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression. The book’s success has spurred a national movement called “Leave No Child Inside.” I’m so grateful Bok Tower Gardens is doing their part to reunite our children with nature. Don’t miss this Central Florida attraction!
NOTE: Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is just an hour’s drive from Disney and the Orlando area.
TIP: Florida residents may want to consider an Annual Membership to Bok Tower Gardens for year-round unlimited admission. With many membership levels, there’s one just right for your adventurous family. A membership also includes the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program, with free or discounted entry to attractions, museums, and gardens throughout Florida and the United States.
What is your family’s favorite outdoor activity? Can you recommend a special place to enjoy an outdoor adventure?