Sensory Gardens

What Are Sensory Gardens?

Sensory gardens are outdoor spaces that have been specially designed to stimulate the senses. Their main purpose is to enable visitors to explore the sensations that they might not usually experience within a calm and nurturing environment. This promotes a strong sense of wellbeing amongst both disabled and non-disabled users and carries a whole host of additional benefits [link – p2] for children and adults with sensory processing issues.

What Goes in a Sensory Garden?

In order to be effective, a sensory garden should be tailored to cater for the particular needs of those who are using it. Generally speaking, a range of features are included to appeal to all five senses, with particular emphasis on one or two.

This is achieved using a selection of different stimuli, including plants picked for their colour, scent, taste and touch, as well as specialist equipment such as water features, sculptures, mirrors, wind chimes and musical instruments.

A sensory garden must be designed in such a way that it is accessible to everyone who might wish to use it. For example, if you are likely to have wheelchair users, you should consider the height of the plants and the layout of the walkways.

Sensory Gardens for Disabled Adults and Children

Sensory gardens can assist in the management of a number of different physical and psychological disorders, including:

  • developmental disorders, e.g. autism and dyspraxia
  • mild to profound mental illness, e.g. depression and psychosis
  • brain injuries and degenerative diseases, e.g. cerebral palsy and dementia
  • sensory impairments, e.g. blindness and sensory processing disorder
  • genetic disorders, e.g. Down syndrome

All these conditions can cause the individuals affected to have extreme reactions to sensory stimulation. By calming those who are hyper-reactive to stimuli and stimulating the senses of those who are under-reactive, sensory gardens can help disabled children and adults to strike the right balance between relaxation and stimulation.

Sensory Gardens for Schools

The benefits of sensory gardens for children, both with and without special needs, have become well recognised in recent years. An increasing number of special and mainstream schools are creating sensory gardens to encourage exploration, aid learning and improve concentration amongst their pupils.

Sensory gardens promote a strong affinity with nature, which has therapeutic benefits for disabled and non-disabled visitors alike. Find out how to create a sensory garden here.