The Magic of Children's Gardens

Inspiring Through Creative Design

Lolly Tai, with a Foreword by Jane L. Taylor
Merit Award from the PA/DE American Society of Landscape Architects, 2017
Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1448-9
Publication: Mar 21

HC: $75.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-1447-2
Publication: Mar 17

376 pages
8 x 10
697 color photos, 27 tables

An exploration of the purpose, beauty, and benefits of creating children’s outdoor environments in public gardens

Read the Introduction and Chapter 1 (PDF).


Children’s gardens are magical places where kids can interact with plants, see where food and fibers grow, and experience the role of birds, butterflies, and bees in nature. These gardens do more than just expose youngsters to outdoor environments. They also provide marvelous teaching opportunities for children to care for vegetables and flowers and interact in creative spaces designed to stimulate all five senses.

In The Magic of Children’s Gardens, landscape architect Lolly Tai provides the primary goals, concepts, and key considerations for designing outdoor spaces that are attractive and suitable for children, especially in urban environments. Tai presents inspiring ideas for creating children’s green spaces by examining nineteen outstanding case studies, including the Chicago Botanic Garden, Winterthur, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Magic of Children’s Gardens features hundreds of comprehensive drawings and exquisite photographs of successful children’s outdoor environments, detailed explanations of the design process, and the criteria for creating attractive and engaging gardens for children to augment their physical, mental, and emotional development.

Exposing youth to well-planned outdoor environments promotes our next generation of environmental stewards. The Magic of Children’s Gardens offers practitioners a guide to designing these valued spaces.


"The Magic of Children’s Gardens is an unparalleled resource for anyone—whether landscape designer, horticulturist, educator, or community leader—who seeks a better understanding of how the design of contemporary children’s gardens has evolved to most effectively spark the interest and imagination of today’s kids. Lolly Tai has compiled detailed profiles of exemplary gardens across America, each including design intents, plant lists, technical details, and inspirational photos and plans. Those charged with envisioning, maintaining, or enhancing children’s gardens need to have this comprehensive work on their bookshelves."
Tom Underwood, Executive Director of the American Horticultural Society

"The Magic of Children’s Gardens is a great resource for landscape architects and designers. Lolly Tai’s case studies feature a robust series of children’s gardens created by recognized designers. Each case study includes a plethora of plans, sketches, photographs, and plant lists—everything a designer could want for inspiration and guidance. In the past, this information was available only to the lucky few who had the resources to travel the United States, tour sites, and meet owners and designers in person. Tai brings the whole measure to us in a single must-have book."
Lisa Horne, Co-chair of the Outdoor Children's Environments Professional Practice Network, professional landscape architect, and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects

"The Magic of Children’s Gardens is a superb resource and reference tool for anyone interested in children’s outdoor environments—from design professionals to public garden specialists, urban planners, educators, and students of design. The detailed garden descriptions, plans, and plant lists provide a template for the development of future children’s gardens around the world that may well serve to inspire the next generation of horticulturists, scientists, and artists."
Paul B. Redman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Longwood Gardens

"Tai features 19 U.S. public gardens devoted to children's entertainment and education. Each is showcased with plant lists, landscape sketches, architectural drawings, and color photographs.... VERDICT Educators, landscape professionals, and community groups would benefit from understanding the vital considerations necessary to create inviting garden-themed play parks for kids. Recommended."
Library Journal

"(Tai) breaks down each garden's goal, concept, and design, providing plant lists and showing sketches and photographs of completed projects around the United States. Beauty and educational value are given their due... but for kids, whimsy always wins."
Landscape Architecture Magazine

"A copiously illustrated survey of enchantments that can be made real—through commitment and savvy design—in public parks."
Harvard Magazine

"(Tai's) assembly of 697 drawings, sketches and photographs of successful child-oriented outdoor environments depict the best practices for successful designs.... In addition to a keen close-up look at the 19 featured locations, a helpful, detailed resource guide to other multi-state youth-oriented gardens concludes Tai's book.... Parents on the lookout for uniquely special places to visit with their children will especially appreciate The Magic of Children's Gardens ."
SEEDS, Texas Gardener Magazine's newsletter

"The strength of The Magic of Children’s Gardens is in its detailed and colorful pictures of nineteen children’s gardens in the US and its attempt to encourage the creation of similar gardens in other places."
International Journal of Environmental Studies

"Lolly Tai provides detailed examples of noteworthy children's gardens in North America. These include ones at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York and Chicago Botanic Garden in Illinois, designed to encourage learning and play through the stimulation of all five senses. Packed with photographs, illustrations, and suggested criteria, this book explores designs that foster children's interactions with plants and the outdoors to nurture their affinity for nature."
—The American Gardener

Table of Contents


1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Children’s Garden
2. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Discovery Garden
3. Paul Smith Children’s Village at Cheyenne Botanic Gardens
4. Chicago Botanic Garden’s Regenstein Learning Campus
Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden • Kleinman Family Cove • Nature Play Garden
5. Children’s Garden at Hershey Gardens
6. Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens
7. Ithaca Children’s Garden
8. Luci and Ian Family Garden at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
9. Longwood Gardens’ Indoor Children’s Garden
10. Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden at Michigan State University
11. Morton Arboretum Children’s Garden
12. Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden at Naples Botanical Garden
13. Everett Children’s Adventure Garden at the New York Botanical Garden
14. Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden in the Arboretum at Pennsylvania State University
15. Children’s Garden at River Farm
16. Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
17. United States Botanic Garden Children’s Garden
18. Children’s Discovery Garden at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark
19. Enchanted Woods at Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library

Illustration Credits

About the Author(s)

Lolly Tai is Professor of Landscape Architecture at Temple University and coauthor of the award-winning book Designing Outdoor Environments for Children.