Sensory gardens are becoming more and more commonplace, especially as the benefits become more widely known. But exactly what is a sensory garden, and what are the benefits of having one?
What is a sensory garden?
A sensory garden is an outdoor space that is designed to help stimulate multiple senses all at once. However, it’s not just the five primary senses that sensory gardens stimulate. They also provide vestibular, proprioceptive and kinaesthetic inputs. These senses include our awareness of our bodies’ movements, position and balance.
The Sensory Trust define a sensory garden as “a self-contained area that concentrates a wide range of sensory experiences. Such an area, if designed well, provides a valuable resource for a wide range of uses, from education to recreation.”
Sensory gardens are primarily for physically disabled and cognitively disabled kids, but adults can enjoy them too.
Why build a sensory garden?
Sensory gardens are becoming more and more popular, especially in hospitals, schools, and residential or care homes. As sensory gardens are designed to appeal to everyone, and can help stimulate senses, they make sense to be included in these places.
There is also something to be said for getting children excited about nature. Nature has so many benefits, especially during the first few years. Nature is found to be important in a child’s development in almost every major way – intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically.
Helping children of all abilities get back into nature can also help to reduce the total amount of screen time that they have.
How do you design a sensory garden?
When designing your sensory garden, pay close attention to the core themes of accessibility and sensory stimulus. You need to also get a clear idea of who will be using the garden, and what for.
Designing the garden can also be half the fun. Consider that those who will be using the garden might want to have some input into the layout and design. Group planning sessions could be considered part of the overall project or social and therapy program.
There should be a mix of both soft and hard landscaping, for people of all mobility levels. When designing, think about how these two landscaping types will be used, as well as how they will change and react to the seasons.
Consider adding elements of sound to the garden too, such as wind chimes, sculptures that sound interesting when rain hits them, or water features. These can help provide more sensory stimulus.
How can I make it accessible?
Remember that the entire idea of a sensory garden is to be accessible and provide stimulation to all. Therefore, making your sensory garden as accessible to as many as possible is the key here.
When designing your garden and constructing your paths and walkways, remember to make them sturdy and wide, so that those who need a wheelchair can navigate them with ease.
You should also consider including raised beds for those that have mobility problems, so that they are still able to interact with the garden.
It’s also important to keep in mind those that have visual impairments. Large print and/or braille signage should be used to help people navigate the garden. Consider adding information to these signs too, to help those with learning disabilities.
Can I build a sensory garden at home?
Of course! All you need to do is take the same central themes – accessibility and sensory stimulus – and apply them on a smaller scale.
Sensory gardens can take over your whole garden, but they can also be as small as a window box. However, your primary concern should be access. If you’re creating a sensory garden for a child or someone with mobility issues, will it be easily accessible for them?
Think about all the different senses and how to stimulate them. Large, brightly coloured flowers like sunflowers and chrysanthemums work well for sight, and lavender and curry plants can stimulate smell. To stimulate sound, wind chimes work well, especially if you are working with a smaller space.
What do you think? Can you see the value of a sensory garden? Did you have a go at making your own at home? Let us know what you think!