Horticultural Therapy and Children

Much horticultural therapy with children is education or developmentally-based and group focused. However, work may also be more formal and individualised.

Because horticultural therapy is often used as a form of group therapy, it can help to foster socialisation skills. For children born with disabilities, for instance, therapy in a garden setting allows for normalisation experiences and generalises to healthy recreational and vocational pursuits after they go home.

Children can also benefit from the cognitive exercises and learning potential the horticultural therapy environment offers. For example, they can learn more about their world through working with plants that provide food products. The therapy setting can also be used to explore geography, climatic zones and ecosystems through plant origins.

Judi Bingham

Thoughts on Horticultural Therapy for Children

“Self-esteem and attitudes toward school improve when kids take part in garden-based learning (Sheffield, 1992).
Improved social skills and behaviour are the most prominent benefits to kids reported by gardening teachers nationwide.” (Demarco, 1999).

“Garden-based learning has a positive impact on children’s understanding of key life science concepts and their investigative skills.” (Pranis, 1992).

“Kids engaged in gardening show significant improvement in environmental attitudes.” (Skelly, 1997).

“Children who participate in horticultural activities show more group cohesion than those who did not (Bunn, 1986).
Adolescents who participate in horticultural activities show improved interpersonal relationships compared with those who did not. Such improved attitudes carry through into adulthood.” (Campbell et al., 1997; Skelly and Zajicek, 1998; Waliczek and Zajicek, 1999).

“People who train to be co-operative extension Master Gardeners report that they stay with the program because it improves self-esteem, offers continued learning opportunities, the chance to help and feel a connection to other people, to feel a sense of purpose, and a way to develop skills for employment.” (Schrock et al., 2000; Meyer, 1997; Dorn and Relf, 2001)