Friday, May 13, 2011

Sensorimotor Worship: Gardening

Sensorimotor worship is a spiritual lesson or experience that involves all or most of the five senses and incorporates visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles.  Such experiences are essential for young learners to make sense of the abstract concept of "God".  Almost any "hands-on", everyday experience can be turned into a sensorimotor lesson with a little forethought and preparation.  

The Bible is filled with metaphors about seeds, sowing, reaping, trees and plants.  Jesus himself used agricultural examples that the people of his day knew very well.  Unfortunately, in many parts of the western world, children are no longer exposed to the process of growing their own food or plants, and the important principles contained in these biblical metaphors are foreign concepts to them.  

I would like to suggest that gardening can be an important part of a child's spiritual education.  Not only do the children learn responsibility by caring for another living thing, they come into contact with valuable lessons about sowing, reaping, growth and change.  

What if you don't have a plot of land for a garden?  We live in a big city and only have a balcony.  Fortunately, most plants and vegetables can be grown in containers even in the smallest of spaces.  You need to observe beforehand how much light your area receives and plant accordingly.  There are lots of shade-loving veggies that thrive even in darker places.  

Step 1: Choose seeds and plant them with your children, allowing them to do the majority of the work (within reason of age and developmental considerations).  After planting the seeds, here are some ideas for discussion and prayer over the next several days:

1. Important things with God usually start small like the seeds we just planted.  Ask the child, can you think of some small beginnings in the Bible? (Examples include: Jesus, the King, being born as a small baby in a stable; David was a small shepherd boy when he was chosen as King of Israel) Then, the parent could share some small beginnings either in their own lives or in the lives of their child.  (For example, I showed my son, who is an accomplished artist for his age, some of his first drawings and paintings as a toddler.) Pray and thank God together for the great things that come out of small beginnings!

Step 2: Teach your children  to water the plants daily.

2. Just as plants need water, we need the water of the Holy Spirit.  Why do plants need water?  Why do we need water?  What do we do with water? Read John 4:13 and/or Jeremiah 17:7,8 together.  Why kind of "water" does God give us? How does he give it to us?  Why do we need it?

3. When we grow in our friendship with God, the result is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Many plants bear fruit.  Why do you like fruit so much?  Read Galatians 5:22-23 and explain what the nine fruits of the Spirit are. Isn't the world much nicer when love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control are visible in our lives?  Pray together for God's fruit to grow in your lives.  (We adults need this as much as the kids!)

Step 3: When the time comes, demonstrate for your children how to trim dead leaves. (This is actually a Practical Life exercise taught in many Montessori preschools.)

4.  Just like plants need pruning, sometimes we need it, too! Talk with your child about John 15:2 where Jesus says that the Father prunes branches that bear fruit so that they will bear even more fruit.  Trees can't produce new fruit unless the dead, wilted foliage is removed.  In the same way, if we always do everything exactly the same day after day, we can't grow either.  There are times (like Lent) where God leads us to change things in our lives to make room for growth and new experiences.  

Here are some great links for container gardening in limited spaces:

Please be sure to use child-size gardening tools for little hands if at all possible.  Our set is from Tchibo. There was a blue shovel, too, but my son planted it inside the flower box for the radishes as a "surprise"!  

And the unparelleled joy of seeing tiny living sprouts shoot up from the ground.  My son was hopping around the apartment as if it were his birthday! 

Linked up to The Magic Onions.


  1. So exciting to see your garden, the first results, and your application! Thanks for spelling out the different aspects we can encourage!

  2. Jenni, Can't wait to see the photos of your girls' garden, too!

  3. This post feels very true and profound to me! I think this is something I've neglected with my own children. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

  4. Leslie, Thanks for your kind thoughts! I'm so glad that you found this post interesting.

  5. Love this concept! Gardening does inspire worship of our wonderful creator.

  6. Thanks, Catherine! I just saw your blog, Still Room Herbs, and will be following it.

  7. Lovely post, Sheila! So true that gardening can be a perfect sensorimotor worship experience. Even something as simple as having actual mustard seeds from the Holy Land to show what Jesus was saying in the Parable of the Mustard Seed can bring so much more meaning than simply hearing the scripture. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at

  8. Thanks, Deb! I love all the creative ideas that I find on your Facebook page.