Rewarding experiences of nature are invaluable in children's upbringing and development, says a specialist in sensory gardens. And it is the responsibility of adults to open children's eyes so they do not end up as mere consumer zombies.
Nature as teacher and therapist
Helle Nebelong, a landscape architect and specialist in the design of outdoor spaces, including sensory gardens and playgrounds, argues that adults should take seriously the task of introducing children to the treasures and joys of the plant world.
"Children's play with plants stimulates and develops their senses, and strengthens their motor skills. Merely sitting with a plant between your hands, and guiding your fingers so as not to destroy the leaves and flowers, helps to develop fine motor skills in children," says Helle, who continues:
"In addition to supporting the physical development of the child, the child also learns to find contemplation and comfort in the beauty of the plant world. Who does not know the joy of going out into nature and being filled with new energy, if you feel sad or under pressure? "
In fact, it does not take much to create your own little sensory universe at home in the garden, says Helle.
"Find some spots in the garden where the child can create his or her own little garden and experience nature at close hand. The experience of small plants growing large and lush is an important eye-opener for the child."
Cultivate your senses in the garden space
For the sensory garden, Helle recommends edible plants, such as herbs, or plants with pleasant fragrances, such as lavender, scented geraniums or roses.
"You could for example plant lots of cicely or lovage, and create a labyrinth and a wilderness where you can use the plants both as food seasonings and as a fragrant maze where children can play and hide," suggests Helle, who sees the trends in the USA, where many children experience nature only through the television, as the most worrying scenario.
"Nature is an important counterpoint to all the artificial and modern things that children are exposed to, so put the computer game on stand-by for a while and give your family some wonderful, authentic experiences at home in your own unique sensory universe."
Photo of Helle Nebelong: Suste Bonnén