A Sensory Garden in the Early Childhood Environment

When I first began caring for children in a daycare setting, I worked for a corporate child care program built completely on cement. There was a small outdoor area for each classroom with a patch of grass, but the rest of the outdoor space was cement and soft surface. I felt like these children were not getting enough “nature” all day, every day in this environment.  I wanted to do something about that and I set to work creating and planning a container garden to bring flowers and plants into these children’s daily lives. Thankfully my director loved my ideas and gave me her blessing to go ahead with my garden plans. 

Sensory Garden for the Infants

I was working with infants at the time. Some of these babies were crawling and some were walking. I wanted plants they could enjoy and even interact with if they wanted to. I decided to plant a sensory garden, plants that were child-friendly in every way.  For my little sensory garden I brought in three large round planters. They were just the size for babies to crawl over to and pull themselves up to a standing position. I chose non-toxic plants and plants that engaged the senses.

My Favorite Plants, Perfect to engage the  little ones senses and most importantly they are non-toxic:

  • lambs ear (touch)
  • sunflowers (sight)
  • swiss chard (sight and taste)
  • spearmint (smell, taste)
  • lemon balm (smell, taste)
  • silver sage (touch)

Different gardens for different senses, different ages and different places!
You can create different gardens for each sense- touch/taste/sight and smell or you could mix them all up in one garden plot. As the years have gone by and with different age groups, I have planted many a sensory garden and have included growing veggies and fruits like strawberries and chard.  I have also created a sensory herb garden with lavender, lemon balm and mints.  I made tiny indoor sensory gardens with different types of grasses and groundcovers for little hands to touch.

*there are many different plants you could add to your sensory gardens but please make sure the plants you have in your garden are non-toxic as well as make sure no children have any allergies to any of the plants you choose.

For a list of child-friendly plants and other resources on sensory gardens for the children in your care: