“Children still need a childhood with dirt, mud, puddles, trees, sticks and tadpoles” – Brook Hampton. Children who are part of the so-called ‘i-Gen’ generation (aged five to 22) have far fewer opportunities to learn from nature than previous generations. Many spend between four and six hours a day on screens, and even children aged eight and under view their screens for around two hours and nineteen minutes daily. Doing so can stop them from reaping the many benefits that time outdoors can bring—including a greater sense of calm, improved strength and flexibility, an enhanced ability to focus, and even improved performance at school. If you want to teach your children to appreciate nature from a very young age, build them a sensory garden. Simply being in this green paradise will teach them a wealth of vital information about their beautiful planet and help them understand why protecting it is so worthwhile.
The Beautiful Fragrances of Nature
The sense of smell has the ability to take us to special moments in our lives, fill us with joy, or calm us down when we are stressed. To refine your child’s sense of smell, ensure your garden is filled with a plethora of smells from flowers, herbs, and grasses. If you have little time to keep grass in optimal condition, or you wish to save on watering costs, consider fitting play areas with artificial turf. Doing so will give kids a soft buffer if they fall while at play and lend the sensation that they are playing over real grass. To add some fragrance to the equation, use potted plants and herbs such as thyme, basil, and oregano. You can also have a small section with a flower or herb bed. Position chairs and a shade sail by this area so you can delight in your garden’s smell even when you are simply relaxing together and enjoying the sights and sounds around you.
Sounds of Life
Enhance your child’s sense of sound through items such as water fountains, wind chimes, and grasses like bamboo, that rustle in the wind. A 2015 experiment conducted by the Acoustical Society of America found that natural sounds such as that of flowing water could boost the mood and improve cognitive abilities. Invite your child to listen to all the different sounds in your garden—including the subtle sounds made by leaves crackling beneath their feet and the playful chirping of insects.
Touching the Majesty of Nature
Your garden should have many things your children can freely touch. If you are worried about plants and flowers being destroyed, create a sensory area that is just for touch. It should have features like a rock garden containing rocks of different sizes and textures. You can also pick up leaves of different textures and place them into a bowl, asking your child to describe them with words like “fuzzy,” “soft,” or “velvety.”
If possible, grow a small edible garden that your children can care for until the produce is ripe for the picking. The list of produce that is relatively easy to grow includes tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, and herbs. Even if you have a small terrace instead of a garden, you can grow a few vegetables in an aeroponic tower. You can also grow sprouts indoors in your kitchen when the weather outside isn't ideal for gardening.
Children benefit greatly from being outside, but modern life often makes it hard for them to experience the full beauty of nature. In addition to inviting your kids to enjoy a host of outdoor adventures, you can also plant a sensory garden. Make sure to pamper all their senses, so that your garden becomes their favorite space in your home.