How to Create a Sensory Garden for Kids
Gardening is a great activity to do with your kids — they can learn about their environment, stay active, and have fun. Here, Rebecca McCalla, Director at the kids' outdoor brand, Little Adventure Shop, shows you how to build a sensory garden for your youngsters.
Gardening is a wonderful way to get your children exploring their environment, and it's also an important educational tool. The benefits of gardening for childhood development has been studied by Michigan University, who found in their research that even small gardening tasks can help your child practice body management and locomotor skills.
Creating a sensory space in your garden is a valuable way of helping your kids practice all their hand-eye coordination, as well as a good way of keeping them engaged and excited about getting outside. By dedicating an area in your garden to edible plants, scents, and textures, you can encourage your little ones to delve into the great outdoors.
Install scented plants
One of the joys of spending time in nature is the array of different scents that you can experience. Including scented plants in your garden allows your child to interact with the garden on another level, and decide what smells they like best.
Many herbs such as lavender are very popular for their smell, but flowers loved solely for their scent include honeysuckle, sweet peas, roses, and jasmine. These easy-to-maintain plants will also look beautiful in your garden, and are loved by pollinators. Sweet peas are especially good, as they’re really easy to grow from seed, produce stunning looking and smelling flowers, and take up very little room in a pot on the patio.
Use edible plants
Another great sense for your kids to have fun with in the garden is their sense of taste. By planting things that your little ones can eat, you can get them learning about the uses of different plants too, and show them where their food comes from.
Great choices for easy-to-grow herb plants are different kinds of basil, coriander, parsley and chives. You can also use these herbs in your cooking, and get your children involved with picking them while you make dinner. These herbs are also safe to eat raw, so your kids can try them fresh out of the garden.
Keep safety in mind
It's important to remember that when you're crafting your sensory garden space, you should make sure it's as child-safe as possible. So, avoid plants that can cause irritation to the skin, or anything with thorns or spikes. Keep stinging nettles and teasels to out-of-reach areas, and if you buy roses, choose thornless varieties that will bring the flowers without the spikes.
Personalise your garden to your child's needs — if they have any allergies, or have sensitive skin, avoid things that might cause a reaction. This way, you can be sure that your would-be gardener is free to explore without any safety concerns.
Make wildlife-friendly spaces
Learning about wildlife is one of the best ways to engage children with nature, and it's as easy as welcoming birds, insects, and animals into your garden. Try installing a small shallow pond, or providing a bird bath, so that birds can drink and bathe. This will also encourage frogs, toads, or even newts to move into the garden. There are also lots of amazing wildlife plants to plant with children that will encourage pollinators, bats, hedgehogs and insects to the garden.
Bird feeders are also a classic offering to wildlife, and butterfly or bee houses can add a habitat for these insects so you and your child can admire them during the summer months. Butterfly and bee houses are typically made out of wood, and contain lots of holes for the insects to crawl into and lay eggs. You can buy a variety of homes for wildlife at Gardening for Kids, or make it into an activity by crafting your own with your little one.
Add some fun features
Lastly, some extra features can really give your garden that last interesting touch. If you have room, add a winding path through the plants that your child can follow. Ornaments such as wind chimes or a trickling water fountain can bring some fun sounds to the garden, and you can decorate your space with painted stepping stones or funky children’s plant pots.
Cute animal ornaments can give your kids something else to play with, so try placing a rabbit ornament in between your scented plants, or a Peppa Pig ornament by your herb section. This is a good moment to add a personal touch to your sensory garden, and you can get your child involved in choosing features and trinkets that they will enjoy playing with.