Gaffield Children’s Garden

    at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Summer Hours (Memorial Day – Labor Day)
10:00 AM – 8:00 PM Monday*-Saturday
10:00 AM – 4:30 PM Sunday
Free admission
*(Conservatory Closed Mondays)

Fall / Winter Hours (Labor Day – Memorial Day)
Daily 10 am – 4:30 pm
Wednesdays until 8 pm
Free admission

At Gaffield Children’s Garden, we are all in on Nature Play!

Research helps us know that childhood outdoor play is essential, healthy human development, a potential pathway to adult pro-Earth behaviors, and a powerful behavior of learning. 
Gaffield Children's Garden

Nature is a catalyst for play in many rich forms. We have provisioned our spaces for hands-on Nature Play, fun, and exploration, inviting children, families, and caregivers to build, imagine, create, dig, climb, taste, explore, and develop relationships with the natural world.

Come play along the edge of the pond to make friends with our aquatic friends, and check out the action in the Pollinator Garden. Join together to create a dynamic story on the Forest Amphitheater. Seek out the Rustic Habitat Trail for shady respite and quiet time for reading Nature and gardening books, field guides, and experiment with making sound with natural objects along the trail’s edge. Build with boulders, branches, stumps in the Builder’s Garden, and with plant parts, rocky parts, and tree parts in the Fairy and Troll Knoll. 

Recognizing the value of childhood outdoor play, we invite all children and families to play at Gaffield Children’s Garden. 

All children have a right to play and learn outdoors, to build a sense of self that places them in the context of Nature. We are determined to provision for outdoor play here at GCG, to model and share easy-to-replicate outdoor play, to advocate broadly for Nature access and play equity, and to partner with interested parties to activate more play for all children, everywhere.

Gaffield Children's Garden

If you are a parent, teacher, or caregiver looking for more Nature Play resources, locally and nationally, please check out this page. If you are part of a UM student group or a community organization interested in collaborating on activating Nature Play in other places, or want to start a conversation about Nature Play, please reach out to Lee Smith Bravender at