Are you looking for some unique ideas to entice
your kids to “unplug” and go outside? Add an extra element of
fun to gardening by planting a sensory garden this spring. You
will reap the rewards of discovering new sights, scents, sounds,
tastes, and textures from spring to fall.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Herbs are a class of plants that children love to rub and smell.
It can be surprising to rub a leaf and encounter an unexpected
scent such as lemon, cinnamon, or chocolate. Some great choices
include Lemon Basil and other basils that smell like lime or
cinnamon. Mint plants come in a wide variety of scents as well.
You can find Chocolate Mint, Orange Mint, and many others. For a
bit of Christmas in July, try some Pine Scented Rosemary. Take
your child on a trip to your local nursery and sniff around a
bit. Choose a few herbs that you like, and get growing.
"Lamb's Ear" (Stachys Byzantina) has a texture so soft, that it
can feel as if you're petting an animal when you touch the
leaves (hence the name). On the other end of the spectrum is the
Strawflower. Strawflowers look like regular flowers, but when
you touch them, they feel incredibly dry and papery. There are
many warty-looking lumpy, bumpy ornamental gourds that can be
fun to grow as well.
"Sensitive Plant" (Mimosa Pudica) has an interesting response to
touch - the leaves immediately react by closing up. This is a
fascinating sight to see, but do be careful to touch only the
leaves, since they also have very sharp thorns. It can also be
fun to plant Sunflowers, and check in on them throughout the day
as their “heads” follow the sun.
Plant herbs and use them in your cooking, or to flavor your iced
tea. (Be sure to wash the plants thoroughly prior to use). There
are many edible flowers as well, such as Violets, Roses,
Honeysuckle, and so on. Why not try an "all flower" salad? Make
sure that you only use plants that you are familiar with, and
always teach children to consult an adult prior to consuming
part of a plant.
For your own home-grown maracas, plant gourds and let them dry
out until you hear the seeds rattle. There are other things to
listen for in your garden as well. Plants attract all sorts of
birds and insects. Try keeping a journal with your child, and
record all of the different sounds that you hear in your garden.
The plants listed above are just a few suggestions. Have fun
experimenting on your own. Go to your local gardening center and
explore what they have to offer.
(If you’ve ever spent a day covered in Calamine lotion, you know
that many plants that can provide unpleasant sensory experiences
too. Make sure to educate your children about which plants to
avoid, such as Poison Ivy, thorns, poisonous berries, and so
By Angela Antonelli