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Gardens for Kids – Design Ideas & Themes

“Gardening has a magical quality when you are a child.”- Barbara Damrosch

Children love walking through a flower garden

Gardens are places for children to connect with nature

 

Inspirational Themed Gardens offer children a wide range of learning experiences and there are loads of creative ways to encourage kids to start small or think BIG!

Growing plants and being in contact with nature is a therapy in itself and often a neglected but important aspect needed by everyone today, but especially children.

 

“Many studies both in Australia and overseas in school gardens have found students who grow organic fresh produce not only increase their consumption at of vegetables at home but also improve their ability to identify new fruits, herbs and vegetables and develop knowledge of how to grow them.”

What a great gift we can give to children! I hope you enjoy some of the ideas I’ve put together from my experiences.

Remember these ideas are for children – a space purely for THEIR benefit and enjoyment, not an adult’s idea of perfect design!  Educational, appealing, enchanting spaces for children help them:

  1. engage their senses
  2. captivate their imagination and sense of fun
  3. delight in colours and flavours &
  4. help them take ownership of their own space – no matter how small.

 

Gardens captivate a child's imagination

Themed gardens can captivate a child’s imagination and be a place to escape to, discover, explore, relax, observe, nurture THEIR OWN plants and play. With some simple design ideas, you can create a mini theme garden even in a pot or container.

 

If you are wanting to get your children interested in growing – from edibles to ornamentals, multi-functional plants, flowers or habitat gardens – below are three inspirational garden theme ideas with lots of easy, low cost options to get started.

 

“If you don’t have room for an entire theme garden, take the ideas and miniaturise them for a container or pot.  This will be even better if children recycle their own toys or shoes as planters!”

As children grow, one thing is certain - they go through loads of shoes!  Reusing them in the garden is an opportunity to teach children about not wasting valuable resources, saving money and having fun making old things new.

Once outgrown, these cute little white children’s sneakers make perfect pots for the garden. Softened with matching white cascading flowers they make a perfect pair as the plants chosen don’t dwarf the shoes.

Inspiring Garden Themes for Children

 

1. Alphabet Garden

To help children learn the alphabet or just design a garden space with a fun theme, you can incorporate the alphabet into a garden in many ways:

  • Select 26 plants with names beginning with each letter of the alphabet.  (I have compiled a comprehensive table of A-Z edible fruits and vegetables available around the world so feel free to email me for a copy.)  Kids can make their own plant labels for free so they learn to identify what each of the plants are.  Children can take their friends and family on a tour of the garden in alphabetical order of the plant names or play this as a game to see how fast they can get to all the plants till they reach the last plant in the alphabet!
  • Make signs with plant names to help kids identify what they grow and encourage them to spell correctly.

    Potato sign made on corflute board with buttons and coloured contact

    This ‘Potato’ sign was made on corflute board (an ex-real estate sign) with buttons and coloured contact cut out into letters and shapes

 

  • Select plants that begin with letters that spell out the child’s name – they can be a combination of edible plants like veggies, herbs, fruit trees and flowers or ornamentals.  e.g. For a girl, ELLA might choose English spinach (to eat), Lemon Balm (to make a delicious tea), Lettuce (to eat) or Lavendar (for fragrant cut flowers and craft) and Aloe Vera (for a medicinal garden to soothe cuts/burns).
  • If you don’t have much space, keep it simple and plant an ABC garden.  e.g. For an ABC flower garden, plant Allysum or Asters for A; Choose a Bulb or Begonias for B and Cosmos, Calendula or Carnations for C.

    For micro garden spaces, grow an ABC garden

    For micro garden spaces, grow an ABC garden

 

  • Children can mark out the first letter of their name in a garden plot and grow plants of their choice in the space that fits that letter’s shape.  Get creative with other ways to personalise a mini garden for children.  ‘Olivia’ might choose a circular shaped pot or garden bed to represent the ‘O’ in her name.  ‘Liam’ might join two rectangular plastic planters together to form an ‘L’ and children with short names like ‘Amy’ might use a three-tiered hanging basket – with each basket containing plants starting with each letter.
  • If there is enough space, children can spell out their whole name with plants or use a combination of plants and garden art to complete their name. e.g. make the remaining letters of the child’s name out of craft clay and decorate.  Stones, pebbles, shells, sticks, bark and other objects from nature can also be used to make letters.
  • Use recycled pavers or tiles to make a pathway with the letters of the alphabet painted on in bright colours.

    Plain pavers can be given a makeover to add colour with letters from the alphabet

    Turn plain pavers into a colourful pathway to add fun to a child’s garden space.

 

These are just a few ideas to get kids inspired to grow an Alphabet Garden.

 

2. Scratch & Sniff Garden

There are a huge variety of plants that lend themselves to Sensory Gardens.  One easy to grow plant that has a wide range of cultivars and fragrances are Scented Geraniums (also known as Pelargoniums).  They have beautiful aromatic foliage and whilst some have attractive flowers, it is the leaves that make these plants so unique and special.

 

Pelargonium leaves are scented with a huge variety of fragrances

Pelargonium or Scented Geranium leaves come in a huge variety of fragrances and make the perfect plant for a sensory garden for children.

  • Scented leaves come in a range of shapes, patterns and colours; with some varying from pale to dark green in colour and many have fascinating textures for kids to explore – leaves can be furry, woolly, silky, smooth and even sticky!
  • The scent becomes most prominent by bruising or gently rubbing the leaves – the tiny hairs on the leaves house glands that contain tiny drops of oil that are then released.
  • They make a fun addition to anyone’s garden and certainly are a talking point to guess the fragrance.
  • They can be grown easily in pots, the garden or even a sunny windowsill indoors and have many uses.  Indoors, their fragrance becomes a natural room deodoriser – no need for chemicals!

    Colourful pots with geraniums in flower

    Scented geraniums can grow well indoors and make a wonderful natural room deodoriser

  • Leaves can be dried and used to make fragrant potpourri or sachets and even decorate homemade cards.
  • Fresh leaves can be chopped and added to fruit salads or cakes and can be used to flavour sugar while fresh or dried leaves can make delicious herb teas.
  • Scents vary from delicate to powerful so try before you buy!  Some of the different scent varieties available include: rose, citrus, fruit scents such as apple, coconut and strawberry, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and peppermint and even chocolate.
  • Scented geraniums also come in different growing habits – some are trailing so suit hanging baskets and containers, others like plenty of personal space (but can be pruned and propagated) and some have a very upright growth habit.

To save money, ask a friend or neighbour for a scented geranium cutting for your child’s garden.  They can then enjoy watching their ‘surprise scent’ grow.

 

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.” – Rachel Carson, ‘A Sense of Wonder’

 

3. Rainbow Garden

Incorporating colours of the rainbow into a child’s garden is so easy.  Young children in particular are drawn to bright colours and they very much add to the appeal and interest in a micro garden or small space.

There are many ways to incorporate rainbow colours into a child's garden

There are many ways to incorporate rainbow colours into a child’s garden

 

Here are a few inspirational ways to add colour to your child’s garden:

  • Colour Wheel of Fruits and Vegetables – Many edible plants offer huge health benefits according to their colour.  Plant a variety from the colour wheel.  Select plants that have fruit, roots, stems or seeds in the colours of the rainbow.  Some ideas to get you started:  Yellow varieties of squash, zucchini and tomatoes; Orange pumpkins and carrots; Red strawberries, tomatoes, capsicum, radish and beetroot; Green snowpeas, beans, broccoli, celery, cucumbers (take your pick for green!); Blue/purple eggplant, potatoes, blueberries and cabbage.
  • Flower garden – there are so many flowers from annuals to perennials available right throughout the year, so the choice is endless.  Some colour ideas are:  yellow marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias and daisies; orange marigolds, cosmos and nasturtiums; red zinnias, snapdragons, pineapple sage flowers and other salvias; pink petunias, begonias, vinca and impatiens; purple violets, verbena and petunias and blue agapanthas, corn flower and salvias; and white impatiens, agapanthas, daisies and sweet allysum.

    Colourful non-toxic paints can be used to brighten up pots and containers

    Children love using colourful paints to add their own special touch to a pot or container

 

  • Pots or containers – can be painted with non-toxic water based acrylic paints in loads of designs:  paint the rainbow, add some flower power, colour pots with dots, stars and stripes or have fun with hand or thumb prints.  Another great idea for decorating is cutting vegetables like potatoes in half with a sharp knife and making a ‘stamp’ with a design cut into the surface of the potato.  It might be a simple star shape cut out or a leaf or flower.  Dip into paint and repeat stamping the pattern on the pot.  Use your imagination!  You can even use colourful shoes as planters.

 

  • Colour temperature – break the colours up into cool, (blues, greens, purples/pinks), warm colours (yellows, oranges, reds) and neutrals (white, greys, black).  Introduce rainbow colours with both foliage and other plant parts like flowers and fruit.

“There is a garden in every childhood, and enchanted place where colours are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.” – Elizabeth Lawrence

 

Click below for more great resources

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I have loads more ideas for kids gardens to share with you, so  if you don’t want to miss future posts, subscribe to my newsletter (and grab your free eBook) or click on the RSS feed below or to the right.  Other popular ideas are the Jack & the Beanstalk GardenHow to Make A Bamboo Tepee in a Minute and Grow Your Own Herb Tea Garden!

 

If you like this post, please share it or leave a comment!   You might also enjoy Gardens for Kids, Thrifty Recycling Ideas for making your own garden tools for kids and showing children How to Grow Sprouts.  Check out clever container ideas from other gardeners with amazing photos to help get you inspired too.

 

© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Gardens for Kids – Design Ideas & Themes”

  1. Themed Kids Gardens | Susan's Gardenson 28 Mar 2011 at 12:54 pm

    [...] I highly recommend this themed kids gardens article… Gardens for Kids – Design Ideas & Themes | The Micro Gardener [...]

  2. Amber Morganon 09 Apr 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Hello! I am in the process of planning a sensory garden for our small rural school, and I came across your website. Look forward to getting some great ideas from your ebook.
    Thanks for your time!
    Amber Morgan
    Irymple South Primary School
    Victoria
    3498

  3. The Micro Gardeneron 10 Apr 2011 at 9:35 am

    Hi Amber

    Thanks for contacting me and I hope you will find some useful tips on my website and in the eBook. I have loads more articles planned but as I am also writing a book, I blog as time permits!

    I have been involved with primary school students in the development of sensory gardens and it is a very satisfying and rewarding experience. Designed and planned correctly, they offer tremendous long-term value and a unique learning environment. I strongly believe in helping children engage with nature at all levels and research shows a wide range of beneficial health, emotional and educational outcomes. In fact, not to do so is quite detrimental (you may be interested in reading the views of Richard Louv author of ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.’) In this technological age where children spend more time indoors in front of TV and computers than outdoors, sensory garden spaces play an even more important role as a sacred opportunity to re-connect with themselves and the wonder of nature in an outdoor classroom. If you haven’t already got a copy of ‘Outdoor Classrooms’ I strongly recommend it as a text – written by Janet Millington and Carolyn Nuttall, all the schools we work with find it a valuable tool for school gardens and integrating curriculum. Written by teachers, for teachers! There is also a very practical DVD for beginner gardeners that schools find useful called ‘Give it a Go’ which steps through the basics of setting up and maintaining a garden.

    I also have a useful resource that steps you through some ideas of how to plan a sensory garden that may help inspire you too that I will send by email. I work as part of an edible landscapes team primarily with students and teachers. The head of our team is a designer who has done some tremendous work with school and community gardens and sensory gardens in particular so if your school has a small budget he may be able to assist in creating a 3D space using Permaculture principles. I also recommend you check out Edible Schoolyards for more help and resources. All the best with your project.

    Cheers for now and happy growing!
    Anne

  4. [...] Feel free to share your tips on what you love about your garden or check out more inspirational design ideas, clever plant container ideas and themes for kids’ gardens. [...]

  5. Gardens for Kids | The Micro Gardeneron 17 Apr 2011 at 3:19 pm

    [...] a garden design theme [...]

  6. [...] then this might be just the project to get them excited!  With a little creative thinking, themed gardens help children learn while they are having fun.  Here’s a cool garden project for the [...]

  7. [...] a unique design theme.  Think about what YOU love – and turn this into your personalised garden theme.  Do you have a favourite colour?  Like rustic farm or garden tools?  Garden art?  A particular [...]

  8. Pennyon 20 Jan 2013 at 3:53 pm

    These are wonderful and very creative ideas. Thank-you so much for sharing them. I can hardly wait until Spring to get started.

    Penny

  9. The Micro Gardeneron 20 Jan 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks Penny! Glad you’ve been inspired with some Spring projects. Would love to hear how you go and please feel free to share a photo or what you end up doing so you can inspire others. :)

  10. Kristyon 08 Feb 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Just had the good fortune to stumble across your awesome website!!! I am currently in the planning process for a sensory garden for a community childcare facility on the Gold Coast for a community project assignment & feel totally out of my depth. I was interested in your A-Z list of edible plants but the e-mail link wasn’t working. I also saw in your response to Amber that you may have some tips on sensory gardens. I would appreciate any I can get if you would be kind enough to email them to me as well. Keep up the good work, great ideas.

  11. The Micro Gardeneron 09 Feb 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Kristy
    Glad the info is useful. Have fixed the email link – thanks for the heads up! Will email you the list and sensory info.
    Kind regards
    Anne

  12. Patty Chisholmon 08 Mar 2013 at 12:51 am

    I would like to get this list if possible.

    comprehensive table of A-Z edible fruits and vegetables available around the world so feel free to email me for a copy.

    I would like to start a garden this year and get my 2 yr old grandson involved in gardening and learning more of his abc.

  13. The Micro Gardeneron 08 Mar 2013 at 6:28 am

    Hi Patty – have sent you the list by email today! Have fun in the garden together. :)

  14. DIY Upcycled Broken Pot Ideas |on 26 Apr 2013 at 9:00 pm

    [...] you have children or grandchildren, try creating miniature garden art or fairy gardens for kids just for fun! Imaginative play and connecting to nature is so important in the development of our [...]

  15. [...] to plant so you can bake homemade pizza when all your pizza plants grow. There’s a lot of garden designs for kids that you can find online, so make sure to choose the best that your kids will surely [...]

  16. […] to plant so you can bake homemade pizza when all your pizza plants grow. There’s a lot of garden designs for kids that you can find online, so make sure to choose the best that your kids will surely […]

  17. […] an alphabet garden. The Micro Gardener explains how you can tie in learning the alphabet with […]

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