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Kid Companions- Chewelry: Apr 20, 2010

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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