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Create a sensory garden for kids with special needs: A Loving Journey

Now that the weather is getting nicer out and winter is almost behind us, it’s a great time to start thinking about outdoor activities for the whole family.

One of those activities is gardening, so why not start a sensory garden the whole family can create together and enjoy! Gardening teaches your child a lot of lessons as well–from the circle of life, to patience and responsibility, and even colors and time. What’s a sensory garden, specifically? It’s a garden that includes everything from bright, colorful and fuzzy flowers, to vegetables and fragrant herbs. Each plant in the garden should have unique features.

Gardening is for the whole family and any age group, and is great for kids with special needs. My son who has CP loves to plant the seeds in the small pots and water them. It gives him a sense of accomplishment because he can actually do something on his own.

Gardening is also great for my twins who have sensory issues. The dirt in their hands gives them tactile input and the plants also provide their own input with touch and sight. Even the creepy crawlers in

your garden can provide a teaching opportunity and sensory feedback.

For a child that is learning to read or spell, the labels you make for you garden provide another opportunity to practice those skills.

I don’t claim to have a green thumb at all and it makes for a challenge to get our garden started every year. We have lot of trial and error, but it’s a great sense of accomplishment for the whole family when hard work pays off and your garden grows.

A vegetable garden is a great way to also save money. Seeds are very cheap and you get a lot of plants out of one seed packet. The seeds themselves can also provide a learning experience and feedback for sensory kiddos. Have you child touch and observe each seed and try to have them guess which vegetable the seed came from.

If you want to save money on pots for your seedlings, just look around the house. An old box lid, egg carton, old jars, empty yogurt containers, etc. are all great containers for sprouting seeds. Just make sure to punch a drainage hole in the container.


To make a greenhouse for your new plants, place plastic wrap over jars and cups, and secure with a rubber band. This will not only help your plants stay warm, but will also keep moisture in from the soil which means less watering.

Place your seedlings in an area where your kids can check on the plants everyday and note the progress of their garden, watching it grow and transform. I can honestly say that, in spite of my lack of a green thumb, one week later our garden has started to sprout. All my kids are excited to watch their garden grow and I hope your children will be, too! Have a happy and healthy garden experience.


Trish Schaeffer is a mom of three boys—two with special needs—and a blogger for Central Penn Parent. Follow her at You can follow Trish on Twitter @Alovingjourney and on her Facebook group A Loving Journey-Parents of special needs kids.

Sign up for Central Penn Parent's Capabilities Newsletter! The Capabilities Newsletter is a monthly compilation of the top stories for parents of children with special needs.

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