Children love to go outside and explore. They love to hear the sounds of birds tweeting and crickets chirruping. They love to pick dandelions and blow the fluff into the wind as it whips across their face. If you create a sensory garden, your children will be thrilled as they explore everything.
What exactly is a sensory garden? It’s an area set aside in your yard or garden that is created to be accessible for visitors to touch, listen, smell, taste, and see. It’s a multi-sensory area for children and adults to enjoy together.
Design your sensory garden so that you can have each sense in its own area. Make weatherproof signs to show which areas are which; you could make an ear for hearing, an eye for seeing, a nose for smelling, a mouth for tasting, and a hand sign for touching. These will be easy for even young children to understand.
Hearing Section – You might want to plant some rattle snake grass, sweet corn, or Canterbury bell. These plants all make noise as the wind breezes across them or they attract bees which make a buzzing sound. You may also want to include a moving water feature like a fountain or wind chimes. A bird bath and bird feeders will encourage birds to visit the garden which will add to the sounds. These will enhance the overall aural experience.
Seeing Section – Of course, the easiest way to encourage sight pleasures is to have many colorful flowers. These would include giant sunflowers, poppies, zinnias, pumpkins, and marigolds. Include several sun catchers or an eye-catching mobile. Weather vanes would also be a sight treat for children. You may also want to create a wall where children can apply their artistic skills. Multi-colored pebbles or slate chips could add another dimension to the seeing area of the garden.
Smelling Section – There are so many flowers and plants that could be added to create an olfactory sensation that anyone visiting will remember. You could include flowers such as honeysuckle, lavender, roses, as well as herbs like peppermint, chamomile, and lemon balm. Be sure to warn children about the thorns on roses, but allow them to smell the flowers. You’ll also want to let them break the leaves on the herbs to let the smells out.
Tasting Section – Berries of all kinds are an obvious choice for the tasting section of your sensory garden. You could also include organic vegetables, several varieties of mint, and other herbs such as chives, parsley, and Stevia. While children are in the tasting area of the garden, be sure an adult is present to keep them from tasting something that shouldn’t be eaten.
Touching Section – Several plants would add to the sense of touch your children can enjoy. Lambs ear is a great plant that actually feels like a lamb’s ear. Gum trees have spiky seed pods that children may find interesting. You may want to have a protected touching table that has soft moss pieces, tree bark, smooth pebbles, and rough stepping stones.
If you’re unsure about which plants to include when you create a sensory garden, check with local nurseries for suggestions. Then design a garden to incorporate each of the five senses. You, your children, and any guests will enjoy the things you can learn from what you can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch.