Friday, July 22, 2011

Turning around “Oh Dad, not there again!”

I recently took my sons, Henry (6) and Clark (3), to the Bellevue Botanical garden. While, we had been there many times before, the rhythm of the last few days warranted some decompression in a soothing and close-to-nature environment. We needed time away from over-stimulation (good read: Simplicity Parenting) and some time to sync up together again. Of course, it was easier said than done. My boys’ first reaction: “Dad, not there again!”. Now the Bellevue Botanical garden can easily be considered a magical place with its Japanese gardens, water features, gorgeous flowers, miles of trails, etc... So the challenge became, how to motivate children and help them see the familiar in a new light.

I didn’t have GeoBongo yet but there was a free trail map at the entrance: free trail map + pen = Treasure Map! So we worked together and built a map filled with various simple quests: counting number of animals between locations, counting flowers, benches, finding the tōrō’s hidden in the garden, and finally finding the entrance to the troll house, which is really a door to the water pump for the waterfall. Points were given freely through the game with a loose structure around the rules. At the end, Henry and Clark waited patiently while I added their points. The total score was: Henry: 210 and Clark: 180.  

So while I started this as a way to motivate them and get them on trails, it actually kept them entertained through the entire adventure. For one thing, both were focused more than anticipated, they called out items left and right. I kept a tally and they made sure I wrote the score down, in fact they enjoyed reviewing the tally as we went. In the process, they also discovered items that had never really paid attention to such as a giant bronze frog.

Our next stop: the Washington Park Arboretum.

At GeoBongo, we would love to hear from other parents who’ve had similar experiences and have created adventures and turned the familiar into the magical.


  1. Even though my boys are 6 & 3, I don't get many complaints about heading to local gardens & parks. Then again, I always try to build in fun with scavenger hunts, color walks & picture taking "assignments."

  2. Picture taking "assignments" is a good idea, we just started doing that and it's a blast, I just need to find a few more low cast cameras.