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Kid Companions- Chewelry: Sensory Gardens for Kids

April 20, 2010

Sensory Gardens for Kids

First it was the Sensory Box and, literally thinking outside ‘the box’, schools and families are using a sensory garden full of plants and accessories to stimulate the senses. Plants and accessories are selected on the basis they will provide experiences for seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, and tasting.

Mid-April is the perfect time to start a sensory garden for children with sensory issues so they can enjoy and be part of the garden. This project can be as small as a planter or window box to a real, backyard, walkabout garden with places to stroll and sit. The design and layout can provide a stimulating journey through the senses, heightening awareness and bringing positive learning experiences. Or on a small scale, an herb garden is a good way to start as herbs have a wealth of sensory awakening attributes.

Live in a city? See post: Urban Sensory Gardens~ Versatile Balconies. 

When I was a child growing up next door to my grandparents, one of my fondness memories is helping my grandmother with their vegetable garden. We spent hours together, sixty years of age difference apart, caring for the garden. Then while raising our three children, we always had a vegetable garden which must have left fond memories for them also as now our grown children each have their own vegetable gardens in their backyards. From buying the first seeds to eating the produce from your very own garden each step in the process is a teaching and sharing experience to the sensory child and to all children.

What plants and accessories to choose?
An objective in sensory garden design is to encourage users to interact with the plants, often directly, for instance by breaking off leaves to smell or taste. So all plants must be non-toxic, hardy and sturdy enough to withstand handling.

Touch: Chose plants that are durable enough to withstand frequent brushing or handling.

Look for textures in soft flowers, fuzzy leaves, springy moss, rough bark, succulent leaves, prickly seed pods. Enjoy the textures of sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, both types of parsley, mint.

Accessories can include rocks and sculptures in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures. Use sculpted handrails for safety and added textures.

Smell: Rosemary, sage, tarragon, fragrant creeping herbs, such as thyme, are planted among pathways, walking or wheeling on them will release their aroma intense smell like rosemary or peppermint.

Roses are a good choice in flowers if you know how to deal with ‘its’ thorny issues’.

Crushing and smelling a plant part works well.

Sight: Use plants in all shades of green foliage with various leaf shapes, and different colors of flowers. Choose colorful plants that change through the season offering a new facet with each one.

Mobiles, bird baths and sculptures can add visual stimuli as well as sunlight and shadows dancing along all surfaces.

Accessories for enhancing visual pleasure include color flood lights, torches, mirrors, and gazing globes.

Taste: Have herbs like mints and chives to provide both scent and taste opportunities. Cherry Tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, edible flowers, fruit trees and the endless vegetables will offer the taste buds an array of choices.

Hearing: Kids will hear the sound of wind rushing through the leaves, grasses rustling and seed pods of some plants rattling.

Have non-plant materials (wind chimes, fountain bubbling).

Birdsongs will fill the garden if birds baths, bird-attracting plants, bird feeders and bird houses are provided and maintained.

Accessories for bringing sounds to the garden include waterfalls, fountains, water harps and wind chimes.

The beauty of a Sensory Garden is that you can have the sensory stimulation benefits and like the saying you can have your cake and eat it too’.

What benefits do you see in a Sensory Garden?

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At April 21, 2010 at 12:52 AM , Blogger Chynna said...

WONDERFUL article. I linked to this on my blog too. =D

(We do this every year with my Jaimie. It's fantastic way to help create those 'neural connections' for kids who avoid such smells, textures and sensations.

Thanks so much for brining this into the spotlight.


At April 22, 2010 at 9:59 AM , Blogger LornadEnt said...

Thanks Chynna for stopping by and taking the time to leave us a comment.Lorna

At May 2, 2010 at 9:17 AM , Blogger Giftedmum said...

A sensory Garden sounds exquisite... thanks for the great ideas & tips.... I will try to make my garden a more sensory orientated one.... A place of relaxation, calm & belonging.... A place of Joy... for any little girl & boy

At May 4, 2010 at 7:24 PM , Blogger LornadEnt said...

Thanks Giftedmum, the poet
May your Sensory Garden BE a place of Joy...for any little girl and boy. Also a place for mum to unwind at the end or beginning of each day. Lorna

At May 6, 2010 at 8:33 AM , Blogger Jean Nicol said...

Reading about creating your sensory garden put me right there in the garden ~ how peaceful that visit was! Another plus to involving your kids in this whole process is that they will surely want to eat everything they plant, so grow lots of veggies too! Imagine the quality time parent and child spend tending to a garden. Imagine all that they can both learn from each other too. It fills the senses doesn't it!

At May 15, 2010 at 8:16 PM , Blogger Lea Keating said...

I love this! My boys are in the garden today.

At May 26, 2010 at 12:48 PM , Blogger Barb Dittrich said...

Being an avid gardener, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea! Wind chimes near the garden can add a lovely component to it too! No wonder Li'l Miss, with sensory issues, loves to help me in the garden... It feeds her on a number of different levels!

At September 7, 2010 at 2:58 AM , Blogger EJ said...

A musical wind chime brings such peaceful melody to any space! A garden would be a lovely spot to hang it.

At November 21, 2010 at 11:34 AM , Blogger Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

Yes,Jean Nicol, for families using The Eating Game for meal and snack planning for their picky eaters, a sensory garden would be perfect to add another dimension to their participation of choosing new, healthy foods. Thanks for your comment.

At November 21, 2010 at 11:35 AM , Blogger Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

EH! Lea your children are the lucky few to have a real garden! Bravo to you...hope you get a great crop or at least a lot of fun going through the whole planting process.

At November 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM , Blogger Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

Hello Barb, Wonderful to hear you are an avid gardener also...what a great advantage for your children to have a first hand "dig in the earth" experience!

At November 21, 2010 at 11:40 AM , Blogger Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

Thanks EJ for your musical wind chime suggestion. Sounds are an important part of a sensory garden.


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