Volunteer Pat Holland, known to the children as "Mr. Patches," began Friday's class by reading a story to the group that complemented the theme of the day: "puddles, rain and rainbows." At the end of the story, the children took part in related craft activity and made paper windsocks.
At the end of each session the class takes a self-guided nature walk, during which parents are encouraged to follow a short script directing them to specific locations around the gardens to investigate with their children, program Coordinator Jennifer Fair said.
"They can do this at their own pace and it's a great way for parents to interact with their kids and see nature in a new way," Fair said. "Normally, they would just walk straight through the gardens and not notice the little things so the script gives them the opportunity to stop and look at nature together."
Holland has been entertaining children with his tall tales for two years with the Toddler Trek program and has enjoyed watching the expressions on their faces every time he reads a story.
"The biggest compliment I get is when the children come up to hug me and thank me for my story," Holland said.
"Last year, some kids even gave me some thank you cards, which they had made themselves. I love doing this and they love it too."
Cindy Daniell and her 2-year-old son, Ethan were newcomers to the program who said they really enjoyed it, despite the rain.
"I think Ethan was most fascinated by Mr. Patches' unusual hat," Daniell said.
Elisa Aonorato, a baby-sitter for 2-year-old John Attwood and his brother, Tommy, 7, said John loved taking part in the craft activities.
"I used to come here a lot when I was younger," Tommy said. "So, I don't remember much but I guess walking around is the best thing."
The nature walk was also the best part of the experience for some of the adults.
"It's great to get out and into nature," said Keith Michaud, who brought his 3-year-old daughter Gabrielle to the gardens. "We're big on the outdoors and hiking so it's good to get children exposed to all that."
The spring Acorn Bear Toddler Trek program is sold-out, but parents can register for the next six-week program in summer, which starts on June 15.
Tickets for the whole program, including one parent and child, are $60 for members and $70 for non-members, and each additional child is $35.