Gardening Engages All The Senses
Gardening is a great opportunity for sensory-motor exploration for children. The activity supports fine and gross motor muscle development, sequencing, planning, following directions, and sensory stimulation – feeling the dirt, smelling flowers and plants, and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables.
How to Get Started Gardening With Your Child
- For sequencing, planning, and following directions, break the task into steps for your child.
- Start with gathering supplies. If able to write, have your child make a list of what will be needed. This can help them stay organized during the task.
- Once all your supplies are gathered, put items that they can safely lift in a wagon or child-sized wheelbarrow. This will provide your child with heavy muscle work as they lift, push, or pull materials
- Remember, heavy work can be calming and organizing for our bodies.
- Prepare for and enjoy the mess
Time for Planting
- Planting is a wonderful proprioceptive and tactile experience for children with lots of digging and feeling the dirt – and, yes, even wet mud.
- Have your child start by digging a small hole.
- If the feeling of dirt is too much for your child, keep a towel nearby to wipe hands-off, have them use a shovel, or wear gloves.
- Give your child a spoon to dig in the dirt and scoop with to improve utensil use.
- You can let your child plan small seeds one by one into the soil promoting a pincer grasp using their thumb and index finger.
Remember to Water
- Watering the plants provides multiple opportunities for strengthening muscles and heavy work.
- Have your child lift and carry a watering can or have your child pull out the garden hose and help wind it up when done.
- Try squeezing a spray bottle to water a plant to strengthen hands and work the same muscles needed for holding a pencil.
- Your child will also have the opportunity to work on body awareness and force grading – how much do they need to tip the watering can for the water to come out, how far and hard do they need to pull the hose?
Caring for Your New Garden
- Weeding facilitates dexterity and grip strength.
- Practice scissor skills by snipping at the grass, weeds, or leaves with age-appropriate scissors.
- Encourage your child to get down to the ground to garden or practice tall kneeling, half kneeling or squatting, to reach for materials.
- While admiring their hard work challenger their balance to have them walk on uneven ground or avoid stepping on plants.
- Make caring for your garden part of your daily routine to help structure the day
Contact the Center For Pediatric Therapy if you are interested in learning additional techniques and methods on how to improve your child’s coordination and more. We provide pediatric therapy services for all age groups in Fairfield, Westport, and Wallingford, CT.