With a fresh coating of snow on the ground and several more inches on the way, it may be hard to imagine that spring is coming, much less gardening season. However, as a former small-scale organic vegetable farmer and current urban gardener, I can say confidently that now is a great time to start planting seeds! Or at least planting ideas of planting seeds 🙂

Gardens provide us not only with food, flowers, and other riches from the Earth; gardens are a feast for the senses! Our sense of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound are engaged as soon as we enter a garden. These sensory elements of gardens can be therapeutic for people with sensory difficulties; for those who tend to be sensitive to sensory stimuli, the garden can be a relaxing environment. On the other hand, for those who tend to need a great deal of sensory input, the garden’s multi-sensory components can provide stimulation.

Whether you or your child has difficulty with sensory processing or not, we can all benefit from sensory play. We all learn about and engage with the world through our senses. Read on for a description of some of the sensory benefits of gardening with ideas to try at home!

Proprioceptive Sensory Input

Another word for all of that hauling, lifting, pulling, and pushing that is part of gardening can also be referred to as “heavy work.” For many of us, this heavy work can have a calming or regulating effect. Try asking your child to help you out by pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying pots and bags of dirt, shoveling, and digging.

Tactile Input

If it’s not hands-on, then it is not gardening! When you and your child garden, you’ll be sure to be exploring through the sensory system of touch. Notice how your child responds when they touch the soil and when they feel and rub a variety of plants. You can even encourage fine motor skills while providing tactile input by having your child help you plant seeds!

Foolproof Gardening

If you’d prefer an easy gardening activity without the need to care for plants, check out this link for creating a garden sensory tub: http://www.homeschoolcreations.net/garden-sensory-tub/

Happy gardening! Think spring!

Written By: Megan Bjella, Occupational Therapist