An outing to The Topiary Garden is a unique experience filled with many opportunities to enrich and expand your child’s language abilities. A topiary garden is a garden in which the shrubs and trees are trimmed into ornamental or life-like shapes. The Columbus Topiary Garden can be found in The Old Deaf School Park, which is tucked behind the Main Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in downtown Columbus. It features a one-of-a-kind artistic recreation of a world-renowned painting.
As you head in to the park, you’ll find the topiary garden in it’s center. The garden was designed in 1989 by Columbus artist James T. Mason to recreate George Seurat’s 1886 painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (pictured below). It is the only garden of it’s kind in the world and is free to the public.
To begin your speech activity with your little one, look for the “As He Saw It” marker in the middle of the park on a hill overlooking the topiary garden. There you will find a plaque with an imprint of Seurat’s painting. From that spot, you have the perfect vantage point to can compare the painting with the topiary garden.
After you have compared the two works of art, go explore the topiaries up close!
To add in the language skills with your child, use the following guided language activities while you are there:
Talk!: While you are exploring the topiary garden, describe what you see and ask you child questions to initiate a conversation (e.g. “Look, this girl is holding an umbrella,” “Are these people sitting or standing?,” “There are three boats in the water,” etc.).
Matching: To do this, print a copy of the painting to take with you or use the plaque located in the park. Using the print out or plaque, identify a person or animal in the painting and help your child match it to the corresponding topiary. This will take some imagination! The topiaries lack the detail of the painting so you will have to discuss with your child how they should look at the size, shape, and position of the corresponding topiary in order to match it to the person/object in the painting. Once you have made a match, you can then discuss how they are the same and how they are different (i.e. the shape of the animal matches, but the they are different colors).
Spatial Concepts: Build your child’s understanding of prepositions (in/on/under) by talking about where the topiaries are located (e.g. “They are in a boat,” “They are sitting on the ground,” “They are standing under a tree”).
No trip to this park would be complete without a picnic lunch. There are picnic tables spread throughout the park for your family to sit or you can spread out a blanket out under a tree. When I’m there, I like to sit in the grass and pretend I’m one of the people in the painting spending a lazy afternoon relaxing outdoors. I’m sure your child would love to play make-believe during a lunch at the park, as well.
FYI…Friends of the Topiary Park is a nonprofit organization created to support and promote the park. It hosts a variety of events at the park throughout the summer. Next up, is “Topiary Park at the Movies” on Friday, September 25th. The family event is free and features an outdoor showing of the film “The Secret Garden” at 8 p.m. under the stars. With summer coming to an end, there are only a few more events left in the year. Follow this link for more information regarding the entire slate of events at the park.