The Positive Impact of Gardens on Patients and Families

Buerger Center Garden BenchAll five gardens at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have the potential to encourage healthy choices, facilitate relaxation, and create opportunities for therapy. CHOP’s gardens:

  • Provide nurturing and healing environments
  • Inspire, educate and entertain patients, families and staff
  • Bring the outdoors to children who may spend a lot of time inside
  • Encourage healthful nutrition and activity
  • Provide an oasis for reflective, educational and creative endeavors, such as reading, writing, art and music
  • Help patients, families and staff understand the life cycle of plants and food
  • Encourage environmental stewardship
  • Build community among patients, family and staff

Activities for patients, families and staff

Fruit and vegetable planting and harvesting

In collaboration with a dedicated staff from CHOP’s Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Child Life, Healthy Weight and Reach Out and Read, and through community partnerships, including the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Enterprise Center, Families Forward, and Early Head Start, CHOP organizes monthly workdays for patients, staff and volunteers to plant and tend to the garden. Patients participate in fruit and vegetable plant selection, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting — and then prepare and cook the food both in individual and group sessions.

The benefits of working with plants are numerous: education in nutrition and the health benefits of plants; advancement of gross and fine motor skills; increased endurance and mobility; and promotion of cognitive skills such as sequencing and organization. It also helps patients feel excited, motivated and invested in their therapy.

CHOP Gardens Books and Cooks Series

Numerous opportunities for fun and creative activities are available. CHOP Gardens Books and Cooks Series encourages appreciation of nature, love of reading, and enjoyment of healthy cooking and eating. Books and Cooks Series activities include:

  • Story times related to nature, gardening and nutrition
  • Books to take home for each participating child
  • Bookmarks with images of vegetables growing in the gardens on one side and recipes from the Healthy Weight Program’s Nutrition in the Kitchen Cookbook on the other
  • Demonstration and sampling of healthy recipes
  • Filming of story hours by Seacrest Studios for patients who are unable to attend in person

Garden Passport

The Garden Passport is an exciting activity the Sea Garden at Children’s Seashore House offers our patients. Children participate in a variety of activities, including watering plants, harvesting vegetables, reading and relaxing. With each activity they complete, they check off one item on their Garden Passport. Once patients finish all activities, they receive a “Star Gardener” sticker and their names can be displayed in the Sea Garden.

Movie nights and seasonal activities

In addition, the gardens provide movie nights and seasonal activities, such as the Fall Festival at the Sea Garden where patients paint pumpkins, snack on autumn-themed treats, decorate the garden's unique version of scarecrows — the Carecrows — and watch a slideshow of photos taken in the garden.