“Gardening has a magical quality when you are a child.”- Barbara Damrosch
Inspirational Themed Gardens
A garden is Nature’s Classroom. If you have children, grandchildren, visitors or are homeschooling, this article will give you some ideas and inspiration for designing your space with little ones in mind.
You can include a wide range of learning experiences. 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. Now more than ever, we need to spend time connecting with the outdoors and plants for our mental and physical wellbeing. Not only adults, but especially children. They often don’t express the stress and anxiety they feel, so a garden can be a quiet space to calm and centre them emotionally.
“Many studies both in Australia and overseas in school gardens have found students who grow organic fresh produce not only increase their consumption 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:
- Engage their senses.
- Captivate their imagination and sense of fun.
- Delight in colours and flavours.
- Help them take ownership of their own space – no matter how small.
With some simple design ideas, you can create a mini themed garden even in a pot or container.
Children love to grow all sorts of plants. From edibles to ornamentals, multi-functional plants, flowers and habitat gardens. Here 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!”
Inspiring Garden Themes for Children
1. Alphabet Garden
You can incorporate the alphabet into a garden in many ways. To help little ones learn the alphabet or just design a garden space with a fun theme.
- 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 until 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.
- 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.
- Children can mark out the first letter of their name in a garden plot. Then 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. Each basket could contain 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. Or use chalk on plain pavers for a temporary game.
These are just a few ideas to get children, families and carers 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 (or Pelargoniums). They have beautiful aromatic foliage. Whilst some have attractive flowers, it is the leaves that make these plants so unique and special.
- 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!
- Dried geranium leaves can be used to make fragrant potpourri or sachets and even decorate homemade cards. All sorts of herbs work well too.
- Fresh herb leaves can be chopped and added to fruit salads or cakes. Mints can be used to flavour sugar. Fresh or dried culinary herb 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. Culinary herbs are also easily started from seed or cuttings.
“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 the 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.
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 peas, 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, cornflower and salvias; and white impatiens, agapanthus, daisies and sweet alyssum.
- Pots or containers – can be painted with non-toxic water-based acrylic paints. Paint the rainbow. Add some flower power. Colour pots with dots, stars and stripes. Have fun with hand or thumbprints. Another great idea for decorating is cutting vegetables like potatoes in half with a sharp knife. Make a ‘stamp’ with a design cut into the surface of the potato. It might be a simple star shape cut out, 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.
- Garden art – add the rainbow colours with container gardens, murals, gates or fences, stepping stones, painted pebbles, handmade pottery pieces, wind chimes, birdhouses or baths, mosaics, recycled painted bricks and more!
- 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
I have loads more ideas for kids gardens to share with you, so if you don’t want to miss future posts, join my newsletter (and grab your free eBook). Other popular ideas are the Jack & the Beanstalk Garden; How 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 – https://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.
Amazing gardening ideas for children’s Anne. Your information is so helpful for us. Thanks for sharing your amazing blog.
I have a health practice in a small country town in WA 100 km from Perth and want to design a sensory garden for children with disabilities ….. I don’t know where to begin. Do you know of anyone who can assist or how I should start ?
I don’t know of anyone personally but you can try contacting a Permaculture group or consultant in your locality to help you connect with people who may want to volunteer to be involved or have the skills to teach or design your project with you.
These are a few organisations to start with:
You should find plenty of people to help you through these or try a Horticultural Therapist in your area.
There are also a lot of free resources online such as:
Hope this gets you started!
All the best, Anne
Great ideas for children’s gardens Anne. Could you send me the list I would like to give it to my daughter. Our grandchildren love gardening.
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.
Hi Patty – have sent you the list by email today! Have fun in the garden together. 🙂
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.
Glad the info is useful. Have fixed the email link – thanks for the heads up! Will email you the list and sensory info.
These are wonderful and very creative ideas. Thank-you so much for sharing them. I can hardly wait until Spring to get started.
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. 🙂
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!
Irymple South Primary School
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!
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. All the best with your project.
Cheers for now and happy growing!