Both mazes and labyrinths have been in existence for thousands of years and over time have been adopted by different cultures throughout the world, ranging from Egypt, India and Brazil to Europe and the US.
So what’s the difference between a maze and a labyrinth, exactly? A maze has a multi path design and a labyrinth has a single path. And here’s the good bit. It’s been proven that children who play with mazes and labyrinths experience a boost in motor development, creative thought and critical thinking skills. Happily, they are blissfully unaware of this and just see it as pure and simple FUN!
As a toddler moving beads on a colorful wire maze, it was clear that my daughter was captivated from an early age. When she was three, on a trip to Grace Cathedral, we came upon a beautiful labyrinth. I followed its intricate pathway a few steps behind her. She was concentrating so hard and felt such a great sense of accomplishment when she finally reached the center. At the age of six, trips to the surreal maze at Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire, England had us hooked.
As she’s become older, she’s advanced to creating complex contraptions and enjoys other more challenging maze building toys. There are many board games, online downloadables, apps, and books that provide plenty of portable entertainment, perfect for travel. We started creating our own mazes on the spot with LEGO ® and straws and are inspired by observing mazes in nature. The leaf cutter ant home at the California Academy of Science is a good one to check out.
Other local mazes and labyrinths:
- Theological Seminary, 105 Seminary Rd, San Anselmo, has two types of labyrinths
- Bernal Labyrinth, in the old quarry site on the southwest corner of Bernal Hill, San Francisco
- Community Congregational Church, 145 Rock Hill Drive, Tiburon, magnificent view of San Francisco
- Duboce Park, San Francisco
- Grace Cathedral, Nob Hill, has an indoor and outdoor labyrinth
- Land's End Labyrinth, sadly it is barely there but worth venturing to
- Lake Merritt, Oakland
- California Pacific Medical Center Labyrinth, Pacific Heights
- Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze, Pier 39, San Francisco, $5 per person but very cool
- Marina Labyrinth, Berkeley Marina
- Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Berkeley Hills, look for the Mazzariello labyrinth and a heart-shaped maze on Volcanic Trail.
There are a wide variety of mazes and labyrinths to appeal to different ages that range from fairly simple to extremely difficult. Have fun seeking out ways to enjoy this really fun activity with your kids wherever and however you choose. It is equally fun for kids and grownups alike.
* Some of the places mentioned are in places of worship and healing. Please make sure to be respectful of others who are using the labyrinths and mazes for meditation, religious, solace or therapeutic purposes.