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A sensory garden for children and adults with special needs provides a relaxing area to stimulate all five senses. A safe haven to touch, smell, taste, see and hear the wonders of nature. Sensory gardens are intimate spaces that can be used for meditation, reading, and maybe a nice nap.
Sensory Garden Benefits
A sensory garden is filled with plants that are edible, soft, stimulating, fragrant, and interesting. If you have a special needs child, you are used to keeping a watchful eye for danger in the environment. In a sensory garden, children can be free to explore, touch, smell, and taste without fear.
Design and Layout
A popular design for a sensory garden is the keyhole design with a shape that
The path can be made from different textures that are to be felt under bare feet. A rock path with step-able ground covers planted in the cracks or irish moss. A sandy path to squish between the toes is another option.
The top of the keyhole should have plants that are in graduating heights to create a small room or private area. You could plant large grasses around the back and shorter plants as you come closer in to the center.
Garden Features for Wildlife
It’s always a good idea to incorporate housing, food, and water for the wildlife to attract them to your garden. A bee and butterfly waterer, hummingbird feeder, bird houses, and bug hotels are great ways to make your garden welcoming to wildlife.
Here are some great links to a few DIY projects for the sensory garden:
- Bee and Butterfly Watering station DIY
- Safe Hummingbird Nectar Recipe DIY (don’t use the red stuff)
- Bug Hotel DIY
- Bubble Fountain DIY
Decorative Garden Features
While you are planning your sensory garden, imagine it in use. Walking down the path to a small, intimate area to sit or lay down. You may think about using a bench or an old tree stump or large rock.
A small fountain or water feature provides the garden with the relaxing sound of water bubbling and trickling. I prefer a bubbling fountain to avoid standing water that can be a drowning hazard and attract mosquitoes.
Sensory Garden Elements
Plants that are visually interesting in their textures, shapes, and colors are perfect for the sensory garden.
- Sunflowers for color and extreme height (also taste when the seeds are ripe)
- Rhubarb and Rainbow Swiss Chard (also edible)
- Echinacea (color and spiky center for touch)
- Chameleon plant
Many herbs release their fragrance just by brushing your hand over the leaves. Smell the lovely familiar aromas that you often find in the kitchen.
- Lavender (also great for sight and touch)
- Sage (Silver sage is also good for touch and sight)
- Chocolate Cosmos
- Lemon geraniums
I love bringing in edible plants to the garden. There’s nothing like fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs from the garden that you know are safe from pesticides.
- Green beans
Plants that have interesting textures just beg to be touched and experienced. Bring these safe options into the garden and encourage visitors to touch them.
- Lamb’s ear
- Irish Moss
Nature brings her own harmony to the garden but why not supplement with some soothing sounds?
- Quaking grass
- Fountain grass
- Wind chimes
- Water feature
Your Sensory Garden Awaits
Create a sensory garden today in your own yard. Don’t have a garden? Create a sensory planter with lovely smelling herbs and flowers in a container. Don’t let space hold you back!
A sensory garden is a great place for children to explore and play. Design your garden with safe plants and elements for children with special needs. This type of garden is not only beneficial to children, but also for adults with dementia, anxiety, and depression.