Special Needs Gardening – Creating A Special Needs Garden For Children

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Image by Cherry-Merry

By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Gardening with special needs children is a very rewarding experience. Creating and maintaining flower and vegetable gardens has long been recognized as being therapeutic and is now being widely embraced as a tool to help children with special needs develop skills necessary to enjoy all of the positive paybacks that come with being in nature.

Cited benefits of special needs gardening include improved motor skills, enhanced creativity, increased social skills and improved self-confidence. Gardening also reduces stress and helps children cope with anxiety and frustration. Let’s learn more about gardening with special needs children.

Creating a Special Needs Garden

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Creating a special needs garden does require some planning and attention to details. The plantings and hardscape garden elements should be well suited for the population that the garden will serve.

The first step in planning a garden for kids with disabilities is to assess the range of disabilities. Make a detailed sketch of the proposed garden and use it as a guide.

Sensory and theme gardens may be appropriate too.

  • Sensory gardens full of textures, smells and sounds are extremely therapeutic. Well-designed sensory gardens are also relaxing and educational.
  • Theme gardens can be fun and flowers, nuts and seeds from the garden can be incorporated into art projects and other special activities.

Special needs garden ideas include paying attention to each child’s specific needs. Thought should be given to plant height, walkways or space for wheelchairs and other walking aids. Build table high beds for children in wheelchairs so that they can reach plants easily. Make paths and seating accommodating as necessary.

Plant selection for gardening with special needs children is also important. As with any garden, choose plants that are well suited for your particular growing region. Native species work best. Also, always put safety first. Some plants grow thorns while others tend to be toxic. Children are curious and much care should be taken to ensure that all elements of the garden are safe.

Since special needs gardening has gained popularity, there are many special needs garden ideas and resources available to help plan appropriate gardens for kids with disabilities.

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