Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enjoying The Abundance Indoors: THE WINTER SENSORY GARDEN

"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is.  Blessed are you who run to him."  (Psalm 34:8, MSG)

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."  (Psalm 37:4, ESV)

This week in America we place much of our children's attention on being thankful.  As Thursday approaches, we share stories of the first settlers and how the Native Americans helped them survive their first bitter winter in this harsh new land.  We remember how grateful they were for their very survival at the time of harvest the following year, and how that culminated into a celebration that we still observe with our families today. 

I think one of the most powerful ways to feel that thankfulness to the Lord is by experiencing His delight through the senses that He has blessed us with.  Yet, this can be so challenging as this hectic, overstimulating time of year takes over.

Even so, for kids with sensory issues, anxiety issues and even those without, this season can become a real treasure through creating your own indoor winter sensory garden.  I have only become acquainted with the idea of a sensory garden in the past year.  Through the wonderful posting of my friend, Lorna, I was able to create an enjoyable sensory garden this summer for my children.  Filled with textures, scents and sounds that are appealing, soothing and engaging, this garden is a simple and worthy pursuit. 

While the sensory experience is wonderful for parents as well as their children, growing tomatoes and roses or offering rough tree bark and gazing balls in the cold weather months is not a possibility for most of us. 

Thus, the birth of my winter sensory garden idea.  It began with my purchase of a rosemary topiary, typically offered for sale in my area during the holidays.  Such a plant offers a wonderful scent in the kitchen and makes a special Christmas tree substitute in your cooking area.  If rosemary can be enjoyed indoors during the colder months, why not other herbs?  For generations cooks have grown windowsill herb gardens.  Fragrant thyme, basil and the like can be made available for your child to touch, crush, smell and eat all year round.

Sharing my excitement as the ideas began to unfold, I revealed the winter sensory garden to Lorna and others, like Leslie, then we fed off of one another in our creativity.  Lorna recommended substituting amaryllis for the outdoor roses.  I was thrilled at the lovely variety of choices they are available in.  I thought perhaps sun catchers in the window would be a good addition.  Leslie had wonderful recommendations like prisms, wind chimes or a water pen to write in frost on the window.  Another friend, Pierette, echoed the idea of multiple herbs.

Here are some other ideas from my winter sensory garden:  Pine cones to smell and touch (roll them in peanut butter and seeds to hang out doors for a fun winter bird feeder); snow globes and music boxes of various sizes and sorts; jingle bells and cow bells in assorted sizes; super-soft stuffed animals in seasonal characters (Build-A-Bear Workshop has an incredible variety that are surprisingly affordable); fragrant fruits in a bowl like apples, oranges and cranberries; Advent calendars that allow opening and closing of doors to look behind; cookie dough; flameless candles for a warm glow without harm.

Of course, as our children have the opportunity to "Taste and see that the Lord is good," on a level that they are able to process and enjoy, delight and gratitude can't help but begin to grow.  And what a fabulous way to manage the stress of the holidays, relaxing with your child each day to enjoy a bit of sensory time together!

These are just some of the things our family will share together this winter.  What are some of yours?

*Caution:  Check on the toxicity of plants for kids who mouth things, and do not leave your child unattended with anything potentially breakable or harmful.


  1. Thanks Barb for this great, timely post! Appreciate the mentions and link to my post on Sensory Gardens. Another idea for a winter sensory experience is instead of using a cut Christmas tree use a planted one and plant it outdoors in the Spring. Some urban tree centers have potted trees ready to bring home or, if you are so lucky to own forested land, experience the adventure choosing and planting your own tree to bring home during the winter months.

  2. Great post!

    We have similar things here -- my boys look forward to the cinnamon pinecones every year! Texture, visual interest, and of course that amazing smell. : ) They also get to pick out candy/sweet smelling hand soap for the bathroom from Body and Bath, which makes washing their hands an entirely new (and holiday friendly) pursuit!

    Thanks again,