Children’s Nature Play Space Opening at Desert Botanical Garden Feb. 29

Photo courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden is inviting children to engage with the outdoors around them at Cactus Clubhouse, a brand-new nature play space opening at the Garden. The open-aired, 8,000-square-foot play area will provide unstructured, child-led activities for children ages 0 to 12 to discover the fun of the natural world by climbing, creating and building with various organic materials.

Throughout Cactus Clubhouse, children will encounter several stations and activities designed to spark independent play, while encouraging physical, cognitive and behavioral growth. Activities include:

  • Nature Art — Children will work with natural materials such as seed pods and leaves to develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world, while strengthening skills in observation and creativity.
  • Music and Movement — This space will feature nature-based instruments and a place to move in order to help children discover basic concepts of sound and rhythm.
  • Climbing — Children will climb, balance, jump and crawl to develop confidence, balance, coordination and risk-assessment.
  • Messy Materials — This area is filled with large-scale, loose parts to encourage building and imaginative play, which gives children a sense of accomplishment and belonging in the outdoors.
  • Building – This area will feature blocks made from natural materials to give children a different sensory and spatial experience, while strengthening math skills and conceptual thinking.

Cactus Clubhouse was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the USDA Forest Service, which awarded the funds for the Garden to open this Nature Explore certified outdoor classroom. Nature Explore is a nature-based educational program of the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, which seeks to incorporate nature as an integral part of children’s daily learning. They have designed and built nearly 200 outdoor classrooms across the United States, providing spaces for children to stimulate development, support creativity and learn about nature.

“The Garden has been a place for relaxation and connection with the natural world for 80 years, and we help visitors of all ages discover the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and learn to care for it,” says Ken Schutz, the Dr. William Huizingh executive director. “As we look to the future of desert conservation and preservation, we know that the children of today are the conservationists of tomorrow. We see Cactus Clubhouse being a fun and safe place where children can form those vital connections with nature and establish an appreciation in the outdoors that can follow them through adulthood. We are truly grateful to the Forest Service for helping us with this achievement for not only the Garden but for our community and desert enthusiasts around the world.”

“We are excited to partner with Desert Botanical Garden, where local kids — and kids from around the world — will have an opportunity for hands-on experiences in nature,” said Marie Sebrechts, director of communication and engagement for the Southwestern Region of the Forest Service. “The Forest Service shares similar values with Nature Explore and the Garden about supporting youth and the importance of conservation and community. Cactus Clubhouse is a great example of what we can build together when we all bring our expertise and passion to the table.”

Cactus Clubhouse opens Feb. 29 and is included with Garden admission and membership, and hours will vary seasonally. For more information, visit

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