It seems that our generation is becoming more and more informed on the importance of gardening, enjoying the outdoors, and becoming a ‘plant parent.’ But how do we keep this light glowing within the next generation of potential gardeners? At Ebert’s, we believe that gardening and caring for plants is for everyone, including the little ones!
My mom, Renee Ebert (the owner along with Mark Ebert) has a passion for working with kids and teaching them about the importance of caring for a garden. She wants them to first learn the love of gardening by just having fun and expressing their creativity. She and my aunt Linda (my Dad’s sister) “sowed the seeds” of children's involvement in the garden back in the ’90s. As a former first-grade teacher, my mom, along with help from our wonderful staff, offers a wide variety of children’s activities today! She used to bring her 1st graders out to the greenhouse for field trips when Linda first initiated and hosted them. These include games, story hours, planting projects, and more. They’re all creative ways that kids can be involved in gardening and nature, while life lessons are learned along the way.
Here are the ways that we help the next generation of our little gardeners get excited about flowers, and possibly even turn it into their passion someday:
Kid’s ‘Grab and Go’ Projects: Kids can take home their very own planting container with pre-prepared soil and decorations! They can be completely personalized at home. They are usually available for purchase in the Kid’s Korner (discussed later), the General Store, and Sweet Onion Mercantile--where additional checkouts are during busy times. In the past, a popular one that we’ve done is “Cutest Containers for Mom” on Mother’s Day weekend!
Story Hours: Stories and gardening have been shared for the past few decades in early spring at the Watertown and Oconomowoc Libraries. A gardening-themed story is read, along with a fun hands-on planting project that goes with the story.
Children’s Fair: At the end of April, Watertown High School hosts a Children’s Fair where local businesses set up booths and inform kids and families of what they do, and often offer a fun activity or craft. Ebert’s is blessed to be a part of this event every spring. A few employees volunteer their time for a few hours at the Children’s Fair. I have also had the opportunity to help out, and the activity we do there is to have the kids decorate a cup and plant their own flower (usually a pansy, as it’s a popular spring flower). It is so worth it to help the kids create their own little ‘masterpiece’ and watch the satisfaction on their faces when it’s complete. A simple activity, but so fun!
Coloring Contest: My mom has also arranged, for as long as I can remember, a kid’s coloring contest each spring. It is available for kids to take home and color their entries throughout the spring season. In the early summer, the winners from each age category are contacted (ages 2-4, 5-7, and 8-10). Their prize is to plant up a wagon or planter, complete with a theme completely chosen by them. We’ve had kids choose themes like “Fairy Garden,” “Rainbows,” “Princesses,” “Gnomes,” and “Baseball.” My mom will work to the best of her ability to gather supplies and plants of the theme chosen by the child, and assist them in planting. The parents are always just as excited as the kids during this project!
Field Trips: Fall is Field Trip season! In October, local schools that we have been in contact with schedule a time when they come out in the morning or the afternoon. The activities done during field trips include the Story, where a talented staff member tells the chosen fall story for the year (this year, it’s Spookley the Square Pumpkin”). The fun also includes the Activity House, where kids can work on their gross motor skills. The kids will take a hayride out to the pumpkin field to pick their own pumpkins and later eat their packed lunch. Such a refreshing way to spend a school day!
Games: During our Fall Festival, there are always fun free games available throughout the grounds for the youngsters to enjoy! Free games include pumpkin bowling, the race car game, a bouncy ball race (new this year!), and a straw jump play area! The two popular ones that require tickets and have remained throughout the years are the “Pumpkin Float” and “Fish Pond”! I always love seeing the joy on both the kids’ and parents’ faces when they pull over a prize from behind the fish pond board.
Many hands help set up and assist with the kids’ fall activities and learning. Shelly is one of our amazing storytellers, and my mom is a storyteller too. Robin assists with pumpkin painting for both kids and adults and is a very gifted painter! Sandy, who is very talented as well, creates and paints backdrops and signs. It takes a village to offer the “fall” part of what we Ebert’s have to offer for kids! ‘Team Effort’ can’t be emphasized enough! It’s such a special time of the year with hayrides, corn maze, the train, and kid-friendly games. Each and every team member has a special talent and part.
Santa Comes to Town! Fun for the kids does not stop after the planting season! During the weeks leading up to Christmas on selected weekends, Santa and Mrs. Claus visit Ebert’s! They greet and talk to the kids in the Fieldhouse, and are always willing to take photos with the kids and listen to what they desire during the magical season. There is also Storytime throughout the Claus’ visit, where my mom enjoys reading a child-friendly Christmas book. In the past, a favorite read has been “Mistletoe and the Christmas Kittens.”
Christmas Crafts: What’s Christmastime without a fun craft? My mom arranges a Christmas-themed craft on a particular weekend in early December. It is done through signing up and paying a small fee. We supply all the materials needed. Last year, and coming again this year, is ‘yummy’ Christmas Trees made out of ice cream cones, adorned with frosting and candies!
Year-Round- Changes Seasonally
Kid’s Village: What’s Ebert’s Greenhouse Village without a mini kid-friendly “village” of its own? Established in the early 90s, the classic Kids’ Village is available for creative play, with unique planted beds and play buildings. The buildings include the Little Schoolhouse, the Red Barn, Cottontail Cottage, and the Craft House. My mom and her close friend Becky Manke take pride in the different themed gardens that they work hard on in the spring! Some include “The Dino Alley Garden” and the “Snow White Garden” (complete with the dwarfs and woodland animals like the movie) planted in an old tire!
Kid’s Corner: My mom and our helpful staff have created a special “Kid’s Korner” inside the Fieldhouse (the big glass greenhouse in the center of our grounds). It’s a spot filled with spaces for coloring, bean bags, books, colorful plants, and kid’s décor. There are Ebert’s-themed seasonal Scavenger Hunt sheets available in this area for kids to carry around with them and search for items while parents shop. The Kid’s Corner is the place where kids can collect and take special planting projects home, usually in the springtime! In winter, everyone helps change it over to Santa’s Workshop/The North Pole. In this season, kids can color a picture for local homebound residents, write a letter to Santa, or pretend to build toys for Santa’s sleigh!
Clearly, my mom and our team love what they do to bring joy to kids and their families. It brings everyone here fulfillment to see the reward of kids loving planting, learning, gardening, and having so much fun! I strongly encourage everyone to bring their kids out to Ebert’s to experience the joy of flowers, nature, and planting. Our staff want to share everything we’ve created with you and your children, and experience fun that will make for very special memories. Our hope at Ebert’s is to create passionate gardeners and plant lovers for generations to come!