Places to Go - Gulf Branch Nature Center in the Winter (Arlington, VA)


Last Friday, T and I attended a tiny tots class on frogs and toads at Gulf Branch Nature Center (for children 18-35 months). Classes for toddlers are always so funny and random, some kids ran in circles, while others paid close attention. I've found that the reaction of any given kid varies by the day. Luckily, the teacher had prepared for such chaos, she brought lots of live animals (we saw a huge bullfrog eat crickets) and fun props (we used colored scarfs as frog masks and hopped around the room), while continually emphasizing key concepts - tadpoles, eggs, etc. After the kids completed a simple art project we walked around the pond, listening for the calls of bullfrogs (when I finally heard one I almost started jumping up and down from excitement). As always, I was impressed by the quality and low price ($5 per child) of these classes. If you're interested, the Spring Snag and the Snag for Wee Ones (the publications which list Arlington's nature programs) are available here.

T appeared quiet and shy for most of the class, sitting next to me the whole time. But as soon as class ended, he wanted to play "teacher" and proceeded to repeat all that we had talked about earlier. I had to sit on a rug square, but he let me take lots of pictures. So we both were happy.


Gulf Branch's basement contains a native american room, full of interesting artifacts and displays, including a gigantic canoe. All three of my kids can spend hours sitting in the boat, making up games and reading books.

On Friday I almost fell asleep in the canoe while drifting through the the basement's imaginary waters, luckily a "bad guy" invasion kept me awake.

T kept taking breaks from fighting the bad guys to "shop" for new weapons in the above display case. I think his Xmas list for next year is already full.


One of Gulf Branch's many highlights is an indoor/outdoor beehive, where you can watch the pollinators at work. It's sort of mesmerizing.


After leaving the nature center, we played outside for awhile. We could hear the bullfrogs croaking as we explored, almost as if they wanted to cheer us on. We found lots of sticks, as always.


We explored some more. Bridges can provide a toddler with hours of entertainment. HOURS!


The Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac has a workshop next to the nature center. They invited us in to watch them create, the hot coals mesmerized T, which made me nervous enough that we went back outside. Imaginary fires are so much easier to contain.


  1. I didn't know they had a beehive! Kane is obsessed with the Magic School Bus bee book - we'll have to go for a visit. I loved these pictures - beautiful.

  2. This looks like so much fun! Your photos are beautiful x



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