How to create a sensory space in your garden

Looking for ways to keep your child entertained and active? In this article, Rebecca McCalla from Little Adventure Shop explains how you can create a sensory space in your garden for your children. 

After a strange and challenging school year for our little ones, they’re no doubt relieved that they’ve reached the end of term. Of course, it won’t be long until parents hear the most common phrase of the school holidays: “I’m bored”. If you’re looking for a new and unique way to keep your child entertained this summer, why not try creating a sensory space in your garden? 

Not only is a sensory outdoor area a great way to stave off boredom for children, but it can also be beneficial for both their health and development. Getting outside in the sunshine will give your little one a boost of vitamin D, and gardening and other outdoor activities are a great way to burn off energy.

Plus, sensory play has been found to support problem-solving skills, motor skills, and language development. If you want to keep your child entertained and active this summer, use the following ideas to turn a space in your garden into a sensory haven.  

Grow your own grub

Bring some flavour to your garden and help your children grow their own food. This is a great way to teach your kids about the importance of a nutrient-filled diet, and show them how fruit and veg gets from the outdoors to their plates.

Encouraging them to grow their own ingredients will also give them a new sense of responsibility, as they have to regularly water and care for their plants. This is a pretty messy job, so make sure to dress them appropriately in water and mud-resistant outdoor clothes and a decent pair of wellies. 

The benefits of this don’t have to stop at the garden either, as you can get your children involved in meal preparation too. Show them how to cook the ingredient they grew, and let them be involved in the whole journey from seed to plate. If you’re looking for something simple to start them off with, try growing some low maintenance fruit and veg, such as potatoes, shallots, or strawberries.

Make your garden wildlife-friendly 

Making a wildlife-friendly spot in your garden is great for both sensory experiences and educational purposes. It gives you the opportunity to teach your little one about different animals, and show them how they behave in their natural habitats. They’re also a treat for the senses, as they expose your child to so many new sounds and sights. Take birds, for example: not only does each species have a unique bird call, but they come in so many different shapes and colours too. 

There are a number of ways you can introduce new wildlife to your garden, including planting new flowers, using bird feeders, and installing hedgehog houses to name just a few. Of course, not all new wildlife can be spotted in the daytime, so why not have a campout to introduce your child to nocturnal animals? Get your sleeping bags and cosy fleeces ready, and keep an eye (and an ear) out for the local wildlife. 

Take time to smell the flowers

Smell is easily one of the most overlooked senses for both adults and children, and many people don’t realise how important it is for day-to-day living. As well as being important for how we taste our food, our sense of smell also helps us sniff out danger. For example, smelling smoke, or giving the milk a sniff to see if it’s still drinkable. 

You may have found that your little one already seems to notice different scents. This is because their sense of smell developed in the womb, so it is their strongest of the five senses at birth.

But this doesn’t mean that it’s finished developing. Help your child refine their sense of smell by filling the garden with lots of different strong scents. Lavender, sweet peas, wild garlic, and honeysuckle all have bold and unique fragrances for your child to discover. To add to the sensory experience, encourage them to touch the plants and explore their unique textures. 

Add a water feature 

Water play is one of the best ways for kids to explore with their senses. The sensation of the water on their skin can be used to teach them the difference between solids, liquids, and gases. It can also help them develop different skills, such as fine motor skills when pouring and stirring the water, and problem solving when figuring out what can float in the liquid. Plus, it’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day! 

There are plenty of ways you can introduce water to your sensory garden, such as with a sprinkler, a water play wall, or a fountain. When using the water feature on a hot day, always cover your little one up to protect them from the sun. Make sure that they wear a sun hat, and regularly reapply SPF. 

Photo by Filip Urban