Sensory Gardens: Mental Health Therapy for Institutionalized Children

Mental health is without a doubt the most important aspect of any child’s social and cognitive development. 

In order to develop it, children must experience nurturing, trustand understanding. The youngest years of life are crucial. It’s no wonder that children who experience early deprivation and neglect have a significantly increased risk of emotional and behavioral disorders  

Yet, over 8 million children live in institutions worldwide. They are victims of extreme social neglect. (2009 estimate by Save the Children). These children are destined to mental illness from the very start. Most children raised in institutions experience isolation, regimentation, an unfavorable child/caregiver ratio, lack of psychological investment by caregivers, and limited stimulation. 

Young children with a history of institutional care often show poor attention, hyperactivity, difficulty with emotion regulation, elevated levels of anxiety, increased rates of attachment disorders, and indiscriminate friendliness. 

These children tend to have a lower self-worth, negative feelings, perform poorly in school, and later become involved in unhealthy lifestyle decisions. In fact, over 70% of children in orphanages show signs of depression. They are 500 times more likely to die by suicide. 

However, proper treatment can significantly improve these outcomes. Children in orphanages can live more promising lives with just a little intervention and support.  

Children need to have a good mental health status if they are going to live up to their full potential. It’s the only way that they will be able to do what is best for themselves and the people around them. 

BLOOM Charity’s mission is to support institutionalized children’s mental health from the earliest years. We understand the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We work hand-in-hand with local leaders in Morocco to ensure that children in orphanages have mental health support.  We invest in their earliest years by providing nurturing environments, access to play and the outdoors.

We also provide institutionalized children with access to sensory (healing) gardens. Why? There is endless research that shows the therapeutic benefits of healing gardens. 

Healing gardens help to regulate emotions. The gardens help children develop important life skills including emotional regulation and self-reliance. As children spend time in the garden, waiting patiently for a seed to sprout and a flower to bloom, they gain an understanding of time and develop the attributes of patience and persistence. 

A healing garden creates an opportunity for the orphan children to experience textures, tastes and sounds they may otherwise not be exposed to, such as a beautiful birdsong, a velvety rose petal, a jagged rock, moist dirt, tiny seeds and large shading trees. This type of sensory stimulation is critical to healthy brain development. 

Healing gardens are particularly beneficial to children with sensory processing issues, such as autism and other disabilities. For this reason, there has been a growing trend to include sensory gardens in schools and children’s hospitals. It has also been shown to help with anxiety, fidgeting and attention disorders such as ADHD. Studies show that sensory gardens teach non-verbal children how to participate in a cooperative effort and it helps develop their non-verbal communication skills. BLOOM creates these accessible garden spaces for children with all kinds of disabilities, including those who are in wheelchairs. BLOOM creates gardens that serve as a serene, calming oasis and assist in emotionally grounding the children. 

At BLOOM, we know that all children deserve to live happy and productive lives that are filled with love, harmony, and a great mental health status.­ 

As we celebrate World Mental Health Day, we hope to bring much needed support to the vulnerable, institutionalized children around the world. 


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