Recording: Sensory Gardens


Increasingly, we are finding that children are demonstrating sensory integration challenges that present as behavioral challenges, anxiety, and being overwhelmed. These issues can impact learning and play. Join occupational therapist and therapeutic landscape design consultant Amy Wagenfeld and mom, gardener, and garden educator Em Shipman from KidsGardening to learn how to design a garden or greenspace for kids ages 3-5 intended to engage each of the body’s sensory systems. In this recording of Sensory Gardens, we’ll share five specific activities to use in a garden or greenspace to help young children integrate and organize their senses, as well as tips and tricks for managing challenging sensory-related behaviors.


  • Designing a Sensory Garden
  • Plants for Pre-K Gardens
  • Sensory Garden Plants
  • NC State Extension resource for plant safety



Em Shipman, MSM, Executive Director, KidsGardening

Em is a nonprofit executive with nearly 20 years of experience leading transformative programs in food systems, agriculture, and education. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Hobart and William Smith College and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College Graduate School. Em is a passionate advocate for children and the planet and believes that garden-based learning and hands-on, placed-based education benefit both. Em has also worked as a professional gardener and garden designer and spends all of her free time (and then some) digging in the dirt. Em chairs her local school forest committee and volunteers for an award-winning Vermont-based children’s science museum. She sits on the School Garden Support Organization Network’s (SGSO Network) Governance Board.


Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, EDAC, FAOTA

Amy is an occupational therapist, therapeutic and universal design consultant, educator, researcher, and author. She is Affiliate Associate Professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Principal of Amy Wagenfeld | Design, a therapeutic design consulting organization. Amy is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association, holds specialty certification in environmental modifications (SCEM) through the American Occupational Therapy Association, and certification in Healthcare Garden Design through the Chicago Botanical Garden. Amy publishes and presents widely on topics related to nature and health and is co-author of the award-winning book, Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces (Timber Press), Nature-Based Strategies for Allied Health Practitioners (Jessica Kingsley Publishers), and The Nature of Inclusive Play (Routledge, Inc.).


Moderated by NHSA’s Rachel Hutchinson