Story time at the Desert Botanical Garden

Gray (3) checks out Penny, one of the garden’s resident tortoise.

Raising Arizona Kids received comped admission to this event but all thoughts and recollections are our own. 

It was already well over 100 degrees on the morning we arrived for story time at Desert Botanical Garden, a new youth pilot program, but the kids didn’t seem to mind a bit. They were too busy looking for Penny, the tortoise, and exploring the outdoor classroom to notice the quickly rising summer temperatures. The outdoor classroom is designed to be a place of safe exploration. Our one-year-old loved roaming freely and our three-year-old was mostly infatuated with the tortoise. Penny was just waking up for the day, so the kids were able to feed her a breakfast of lettuce and learn all about her shell. Once Penny was thoroughly annoyed with the affection, she went into hiding and we were able to move on to story time—The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. The incredibly animated staff member took the kids on a journey of the seed while engaging them at every turn of the page.

Here are some of this month’s upcoming nature-themed stories hand-picked by DBG:

• June 11 – Lola Plants a Garden, Anna McQuinn & Guacamole, Jorge Argueta, Margarita Sada
• June 14 – Who Will Save the Desert?, Judy L. Paris
• June 15 – Explorers of the Wild, Cale Atkinson, Fatima’s Great Outdoors, Abreen Tariq
• June 16 – The Hike, Alison Farrell & Hike, Pete Oswald
• June 17 – Señorita Mariposa, Ben Gundersheimer & Backyard Bugs, Richard Ferguson
• June 18 – Juneteenth, R.J. Bailey & Celebrating Holidays “Juneteenth“, Rachel Grack
• June 21 – Gathering the Sun, Alma Flor Ada
• June 22 – Little Green, Keith Baker
• June 23 – Goat in the Rug, Charles L. Blood & Martin Link
• June 24 *Whoo-o-o’s Awake in the Desert, Jenny Holt
• June 25 – *Colors of the Southwest, Amy Mullen

After finishing the story, the staff provided the kids with seed pods to see how well they would fly, a craft to make their own paper seed pod, and sunflower seeds to germinate their own seeds. Ours is currently sitting in a windowsill at home! After lots of giggles, jumping, and singing we moved inside where bubbles filled the room and we all got to say goodbye with another song.

Maverick (1) plays with bubbles after storytime

This story time takes place 8am-9am Tuesday-Friday all summer long (EXCEPT July 2-11 when the garden is closed), followed by an opportunity to learn more with Cactus Kids Club in the (very air-conditioned) auditorium. On the day we attended, the kids were able to build bird nests by using tweezers to replicate a bird’s beak. They collected twigs, string, and seed pods to make their own nests.

Gray (3) inspects different bird nests with DBG staff.

These events are free with admission so prices are $24.95 for adults, $14.95 for kids, and 3 and under are FREE. Memberships start at $89. Starting July 12-Labor Day admission prices will be $14.94 for both adults and kids! Tickets must be purchased in advance. Online DBG says this event is best for two and under but I think it’s suitable for 6 and under with all the activities! I recommend bringing sunscreen, a hat (we always forget hats!), and water! Even in the morning the heat is harsh, but it wears my kiddos out just in time for a morning nap!

Later this summer DBG is also offering drop-in Desert Kids Camp for ages 3-12 with music, activities, games, and lots of learning! You can find out more about this event and rates here.

Kate and Gray (3) build bird nests together

Sensory Science: July 13-15
Plant Power: July 19-22
Earth Science: July 26

8-10 a.m. | Ages 6-8
10 a.m.-12 p.m. | Ages 3-5
10 a.m.-12 p.m. | Ages 9-12


In Tucson, you can partake in a very similar program with Desert Discovery Days at the Tohono Chul Garden. This program takes place Monday-Friday through September 2 in the Children’s Ramada. Enjoy activities like nature journaling, mediation, yoga, and stories on various days! In collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Oro Valley you can also visit on Saturday for Nature Ninos. These events are also free with admission.