Have a field day at your local garden center

Taking the children to the local garden center for family entertainment may sound like an odd proposition. But in my experience, the neighborhood nursery is just the place for family bonding, educational exploration and finding the right colorful blooms to enhance my container garden.

Central Ohio is home to a number of gardening and landscaping stores. Most offer a wide variety of healthy plants, shrubs and trees that are neatly organized and labeled. Perusing the product-lined paths can be adventuresome for children. Many stores also offer family-friendly workshops and seasonal events with free entertainment.

My family of four likes to visit Oakland Nursery at 1156 Oakland Park Ave. to find flowers for my front-porch containers. Selecting annuals and planting them at home with my children has become a yearly ritual.

Shopping at Oakland is easy for my husband and me and fun for our children thanks to the store’s shopping carts that have play trucks and cars affixed to the front. Rosie and Max like to choose their own vehicle and toot the horns as we meander about 10 acres of landscaping products.

Rosie likes to join her daddy in exploring the outdoor living space behind one of the nursery’s buildings.

Oakland also offers a seasonal food truck and a small playground with swings and a slide that’s usually occupied by giddy children.

Below is more information about several family-friendly garden centers in central Ohio:

Oakland Nurseries: Oakland has four locations in central Ohio including a garden center at 1156 Oakland Park Ave. that includes a playground and shopping carts with Little Tikes cars affixed to the front. Seasonal events include a terrific Fall Festival in October with free activities, a costume contest and entertainment.

deMonye’s Greenhouse: 2500 Airport Drive, Columbus. This family-owned business, established in 1929, offers a “little sprouts” garden class and unique workshops, including how to build fairy gardens. Visit in October for its haunted greenhouse maze.

Strader’s Garden Centers: Stader’s has six locations in central Ohio, including a garden center at 5350 Riverside Drive that uniquely offers a full-service bike shop with a select line of Schwinn and Mongoose bikes.

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Clever layout allows parents to keep watchful eye on kids

With so many innovative community parks popping up around central Ohio, it’s a great time to be a kid in the capital city. Sprawling recreation areas, such as North Orange Park in Lewis Center, also make it a great time to be a parent here.

The 36-acre community complex – 25 minutes north of downtown Columbus – contains soccer fields, basketball courts, paved walking trails, a sledding hill and a picnic shelter. The park also has a multi-level playground and a large sand pit, where my young children and I recently spent several hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We dug our bare feet in the clump-free sand and played on a peculiar seesaw where riders stand on either end and propel themselves off old tires.

What makes the space unique is a small hill near the parking lot. I joined other parents for a seat on the well-manicured grass. From the elevated vantage point, I could watch my children play in the sand below or in the two nearby playgrounds. One playground is designed for toddlers with low slides and a rocking car and alligator.

The park is located at 7560 Gooding Blvd. in the North Orange subdivision. Nearby are restrooms and an 8,500-square-foot outdoor community pool with giant, colorful slides. Even though we couldn’t visit the pool (you need to be a member), it still looked cool from the playground.

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