Children are curious by nature. Through sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound all of their senses can be stimulated by a walk through a sensory garden.
Planting for the senses is easy. Section off the garden for each of the senses. Paint small rocks with one of each of the senses--see, feel, smell, taste, hear--and have your child use them to identify each area of the garden. No yard? Then plant in garden boxes or pots.
In addition to the multitude of colors you can plant in a garden, also choose plants of varying heights to create visual interest. A climbing Clematis in purple or white adds dimension to any garden.
Add a butterfly bush. Its bright orange blossoms and 2-3 foot height attract butterflies, which also adds to the sense of sight.
When planting your “seeing” part of the garden be sure to choose plants that bloom at different times of the year. Even Silver Mound has a place in the garden. It doesn’t have a blooming flower, but it's delicate foliage and mounded shape add visual interest.
Roses and carnations are easily identified, but try planting some violets and other plants that your child will have to actually stick their nose in to smell. Mint has a great scent, but be careful because it spreads like wildfire.
Brushing up against a rosemary plant will leave a great scent on your clothing. The best part of herbs is that they can work in several parts of the sensory garden--many are as visually interesting as they are appealing to the nose.
Wood mulch and grass clippings can also add an earthy smell to your garden. Let your children experience a different smell each day. Another way to have your children experience this part of the garden is to take them outside after a rain storm and have them smell how fragrant the air is.
Lamb's Ears are soft and fleshy to the touch. The succulent leaves of a Begonia are very different than touching a rose petal.
Have a pile of small smooth rocks in the garden. Choose a variety of sizes and colors, and put them in an area where the sun will warm them. Let your child hold one light-colored rock in one hand, and a dark-colored one in the other hand and ask them which one is warmer.
Add a sand box. What better “feel” is there than warm sand on bare feet? Sand is a good teacher because it has different textures when wet and dry.
Grow vegetables like peas and green beans in the taste area. They are so much better when just picked off the vine. Fruit trees are great as well, and are easy to climb, too!
Grow herbs such as Lavender, Chives and Thyme and have them taste each one. Have your child help you cook with these fresh herbs and learn to identify each one.
Although the act of hearing may not come to mind when you think of a garden, there are many things that can be incorporated into a garden to make a child stop and listen.
A gentle gurgling fountain, wind chimes or even a quiet place where there is no sound at all can all be a learning experience.
Gravel pathways that crunch under foot and trees and plants that attract birds and bees will help your child learn to identify different sounds, as will tall willowy grasses that rustle with a breeze and dried seed pods.
Use your garden as a way to teach your child about different senses. They won’t even know they're learning.