Gardening - Supporting Your Child's Development

Well we are flying through the year already and can you believe that it is already Autumn?! But in saying this, it is now the perfect time to increase our play in the garden. What better way to explore and engage our sensory systems than being outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

Activity ideas

Engaging our visual systems:

Play in the garden can be a great way to engage our visual systems; especially if your child finds it challenging to register and recognise visual information.

Some activity ideas can include:

  • Searching for a particular colour flower or plant in the garden.
  • Distinguishing between the different sizes of flowers, plants or leaves and describing these to another.
  • Distinguishing between the different shapes of leaves or petals on flowers and describing these to another.

Engaging our sense of smell:

Planting flower gardens can be a great way to engage and promote a sense of smell.

Some ideas could include:

  • Selecting flowers that have various different aromas. For example, lavender plants, roses, lilies etc.
  • Use of a rating chart (1-5) could help to identify which flower scents were the most preferred (1) and those that were least desired (5).

Engaging our sense of taste:

Maintaining a vegetable garden can be a wonderful way for children to explore and engage their sense of taste.

Some key ideas could include:

  • Creating a vegetable garden with a wide range of fruits and vegetables.
  • Engaging in discussions and making comparisons regarding the taste when eating the produce. It might be beneficial to pick two different items at a time, to avoid the child becoming overwhelmed with different tastes.
  • Some discussions could include whether the taste was a:
  • Strong or big taste
  • Small or subtle taste.
  • Sweet, sour or bitter taste.
  • Bland, plain or spicy taste.

Engaging our sense of touch:

Planting flowers, vegetable gardens or even setting up a fairy garden can help a child to increase their awareness of different types of touch input. It could also help to build up their tolerance of various different touch textures.

Some ideas could include:

  • Touching, commenting and comparing the different textures of items can really help develop one’s ability to discriminate between different types of touch.
  • This could involve touching the soil, the leaves on the plants, the petals on flowers, the water being used to feed the plants, or even the fairies and ornaments used as part of the fairy garden.
  • This touching and exploring can also help to build up one’s tolerance over different textures and types of tactile input. It is however important to grade a child’s exposure to certain textures, especially if distressed by certain textures.
  • Use of thin gloves, only touching with one finger or touching one item during an interaction in the garden can help to grade exposure.

Engaging our vestibular and proprioceptive movements:

Engaging in the garden can be a great way to promote a child’s body awareness and to help reduce fears around movement.

  • Picking up and carrying gardening equipment in the hands.
  • Ensure that the equipment or products being moved are a safe weight for the child and not too heavy.
  • Moving gardening equipment (i.e. pushing a wheelbarrow).
  • Pulling out weeds.
  • Racking or digging in the garden.
  • Maintaining a 4-point kneel position whilst interacting in the garden:
  • Digging or planting seedlings.
  • Maintaining the pose during the visual activities (listed above).
  • Play on swings in the garden (i.e. if you have a swing set).
  • Balancing on the edge of the garden beds (i.e. walking heel-toe).
  • Jumping on the trampoline.

Tips for added challenge:

Play in the garden can also be a great way to promote a child’s skills in various other areas, not only to engage the sensory systems.

The activities listed above for engaging the vestibular and proprioceptive movements are also great activities for promoting upper limb and postural strength and control. Within each of the activities included above, your child can also work on their fine motor skill development. Some activities can include:

  • Practicing using a refined pincer grasp to pick up seedlings.
  • Practicing holding multiple seedlings in the palm of the hand and moving seedlings from the palm to the fingertips when planting.
  • Practicing using two hands to remove plants from the container and to plant in the ground (i.e. use of a dominant hand and helper hand).

Please stay tuned for other more exciting blogs ????

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