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Teach Kids About Sensory Plants in the Garden

By: Nikki Phipps - Updated: 24 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
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A sensory garden is a great way to teach kids about sensory plants. It’s also a good way to get them interested in the whole gardening experience. While there are various types of sensory gardens and different ways to create them the more sensory plants you use, the better, especially when all five senses are used and stimulated.

Sensory plants can be especially important for kids with disabilities. Therefore, when you are teaching kids about sensory plants, create areas that provide interesting visual and textural displays that also offer unique sounds, fragrances, and tastes.

Visual Appeal

Bright colours, such as red and yellow, are cheery and stimulating to the eyes. They will add excitement and interest to the garden. Grow child-friendly plants like zinnias, marigolds, red-hot pokers, blanket flowers, butterfly plants, and sunflowers. Be sure to include those with interesting shapes. These sensory plants attract important pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the garden.

Foliage plants create contrast and offer interesting colour patterns. Kids will be amazed at the huge colour palette found in the various greens of foliage plants as well as silver, blue, purple, white, gold, and more. The colour green is also thought to be relaxing on the eyes and mood.

There are many ways visually appealing plants can help teach kids. For example, they can be used to teach kids their colours. Plant specific colours in groups and include labels. Diverse plantings allow kids to experience the wonder of pollination as they watch the various visitors in the garden and talk about the plants that enticed them into it.

Along with colourful sensory plants, add some whimsical accessories that kids can paint or help create. From colourful walls and murals, to mosaic seating and stepping-stones, colours provoke excitement and interest year round.

Textural Appeal

Diversity in the garden includes sensory plants that provide an array of textures for kids to touch. Explain to them why each plant is soft or spiky and which ones should be avoided, such as the fine, sharp hairs of stinging nettle or the thorny stems of roses. Spark interest with soft, feathery, or succulent sensory plants that kids will experience pleasure from.

Lamb’s ear is an appealing choice with its soft, fuzzy leaves. Grasses sends up spikes of soft, fuzzy flowers and feathery grass. Kids enjoy the feathery fronds of ferns and the feather-like blooms of gayfeather, or liatris.

Textural appeal also comes from papery plants like strawflower and Chinese lantern. Flaky, peeling bark is another textural element of sensory plants. Silver birch and crape myrtle are good choices.

Carnivorous plants offer unique interest as well. For instance, African sundews have a glue-like substance on the leaves, making them sticky to the touch. Also, include textured walkways and paths using various materials such as bark mulch, pebbles, or bricks.

Water features open up another dimension in the sensory garden, allowing kids to feel cool, wet water and slimy algae.

Sounds, Fragrances, and Taste

Fountains, small water ponds, basins and even birdbaths can also be used along with sound sensory plants, creating soft, trickling or splashing sounds. The money plant has papery, coin-shaped seedpods that rustle in the wind. A wide assortment of grasses also provides interesting sounds in the garden and numerous seed heads from various plants rattle when shaken. Wind chimes and bells, buzzing bees, and chirping birds add fun things to listen to as well.

Place fragrant plants along paths and entrances where they can be fully appreciated. Great sensory plants that awaken the nose include rosemary, lavender, honeysuckle, sweet alyssum, lemon balm, mint, and sweet peas.

A variety of edible plantings will appeal to the kid’s taste buds. However, always make it clear to them which plants are safe and those that are not. Try edible flowers, like nasturtiums, or those with edible seeds, like sunflowers.

Don’t forget about fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, strawberries, carrots, and more. Various herbs, like mint, dill, and parsley can be good for flavouring many types of food.

Activities

Take the kids for a walk along a sensory trail throughout the garden. Have them touch various plants and ask them to describe how they feel. Have them also describe what they see, hear, smell, and taste as well. Send them on a scavenger hunt for various sensory plants from each area. For example, allow them to collect objects of colour (yellow flowers) for sight or textural items (like twigs and soft leaves) and so on.

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