Written by Gabrielle Burns, OTR/L, Early Intervention Manager at CORA Physical Therapy
Gardening is an excellent activity for kids of any age. Through gardening children work on gross motor skills (shoveling dirt, using a watering can), fine motor skills (planting seeds, picking flowers), sensory processing (messy play, smelling different scents), cognitive skills (counting, journaling), visual perceptual skills (weeding, collecting), and social skills (building, turn taking). Spending time outside is also good for children’s physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.
Additionally, an important aspect of gardening that should not be overlooked is the sensory component. It is important for children to participate in play that stimulates their various senses of touch, smell, sight, and sound, as sensory play facilitates development of strong sensory systems.
Children often enjoy messy play, and this allows them to develop skills such as sensory discrimination (differentiating between different items/texture), like dirt and leaves. An added benefit of messy play is that, when allowed a structured messy play activity, it can decrease children seeking out messy play on their own (such as smearing their lunch on the walls).
Families don’t need to have a yard or outside garden to participate in gardening activities. Parents can facilitate their children participating in gardening activities in any setting. For example, families can make self-watering planters out of empty water bottles, and fill them with dirt and sunflower seeds.
One easy example is placing bean seeds in a Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel. When taped to a window, children can watch them grow! Not only is this a fun family activity, but you can just sit back and smile as you watch your child take pride in their newfound gardening abilities.
There are numerous gardening play ideas that target gross motor, fine motor, sensory processing, cognitive, visual perceptual, and social skills that any beginner can try at home. We’ve compiled a list of therapeutic gardening activities just for our readers.
Most importantly, enjoy your time gardening!