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Dear Diary,

Have you taken your toddler to a botanical garden? Well, I love flowers. I hate seasonal allergies. Perhaps that’s one reason why I never visited the botanical garden here in Pittsburgh. That changed over the weekend. This summer, Caitlynn and I are embarking on several staycations and enjoying everything our city has to offer–including Phipps Conservatory.  So, I popped a pill, called up my friend and Caitlynn’s playmate and headed to the gardens to celebrate the day after her birthday. In my family, we party for a full week or more! I still wasn’t sold on the idea of gardens. First, I don’t have a green thumb. Second, I have Hay Fever. Third, I thought it would be a bit boring for a two-year-old. I always thought about visiting, but on my own–to meditate about the deeper meaning of life or to get inspired by the beauty surrounding me.  Surprisingly, I was wrong–I hate to admit it, but I am wrong at times.  After hours of exploring, Caitlynn cried, “No go home!” Now, I wish we went sooner. If there’s a garden in your state, here are five things you should take when you visit with a baby or toddler.


More than a dozen botanical gardens are growing at Phipps Conservatory.  So, multiply that number by at least ten.  That’s the number of pictures you’ll probably take while walking around the attraction. As moms, we are usually the people snapping shots and not the ones in the photos. My friend and I took turns taking Mommy & Me pictures, so we could capture the beauty of both the flowers and our daughters.


Many botanical gardens have water features, such as fountains and sprinklers. Caitlynn is a water baby, so she immediately ran for watering can. While carrying her elephant shaped pale from the fountain to the pond, she dump half of the water on her clothes.

Magnifying Glass

Phipps provided a magnifying glass, but pack one just in case the garden growing near your house does not. Caitlynn dropped her first one in the pond.  It was shallow, so I fished it out. I showed her how to use it, and then she got a closer look at flowers, bugs and produce.

Hand Sanitizer

We used our five senses while exploring the enchanted gardens. We smelled flowers and spices. We listened to the waterfalls. We watched the butterflies. We tasted healthy snacks. And we touched different textures.  After Caitlynn made a lavender bouquet, I made sure to sanitize her hands.  That way, she wouldn’t rub the fragrance into her eyes.


My little flower girl matched from head-to-toe, but white wasn’t the best option for shoes. She stomped in the puddles, trekked through the mud and dipped her feet in the fountain. Next time, she’ll wear darker colored footwear.


Even if the garden doesn’t have a kid sized produce department, you can still pretend play. Imagine you are a scientist, a botanist or a cave man. The trip to the garden sparked our imagination and ideas regarding gardening. I read the Runaway Bunny to Caitlynn at bedtime, to stick with the garden theme. We’re also planning to grow a herb garden in our kitchen.

Hey DFTM Fam–Have you taken your baby or toddler to a botanical garden? What was your experience like? What advice would you give other parents?

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

5 Responses

  1. Erin

    Love it! Pictures are fabulous! Makes me want to take a trip to Phipps with my almost 3 year old soon!!

  2. Sara Ann

    I was there a couple years ago with my son and I was pleasantly surprised with how “kid friendly” it was. I think he’d enjoy a trip back.


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