July Is Blueberry Month!

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Blueberries by red_stone, pixabay, CC-BY


It’s July, the middle of summer in North Carolina with lots to celebrate in therapeutic horticulture! It’s  National Lakes Appreciation Month, Wild About Wildlife Month, and it’s also National Blueberry Month! Blueberries grow happily in North Carolina, making them a perfect theme for therapeutic horticulture sessions all month long. Why not try a few blueberry activities with your participants this summer– or even enjoy the fruits of summer with friends and family? Following are a few session ideas for you to ponder… would a group of busy summer campers enjoy stomping through blue paint? How would you modify blueberry picking for elders? Most important of all: have fun this July, and don’t forget to enjoy lots of fresh blueberries!

Blueberry Bliss: 3 Sensory Activities for Therapeutic Horticulture

Blueberries are a delightful fruit, not just for their taste, but for their potential to engage multiple senses in therapeutic horticulture sessions. Here are three creative ideas to get you started: 

Bandanna Blueberry Picking

  • Benefits: This activity strengthens trust, hones touch, and heightens auditory awareness. 
  • Materials: Bandanna, blueberry bush (ideally) or bowl with picked blueberries if plants are not available
  • Instructions:
    • Gather group near blueberry bush in seats or on grass, whichever is appropriate for the group. 
    • Have participant secure bandanna over eyes so that they are not able to see (but peeking is allowed!)
    • Gently guide participants, one at a time, to the blueberry bush. Give one-step directions to help build trust, and encourage other participants to also guide the participant verbally.
    • Ask participant to reach out and explore the leaves and branches. Have them describe the textures: Smooth? Bumpy? Waxy? 
    • Next, guide their hand toward a ripe blueberry. Let them feel its plumpness and softness. 
    • Encourage them to listen for the gentle “pop” as they pluck the berry from the stem.
    • Ask them to remove the bandanna and enjoy some ripe blueberries. Repeat for all participants who would like to try.

Scentsational Blueberry Smoothies

  • Benefits: This activity engages the senses of smell and taste, promotes teamwork, and provides a delicious and nutritious reward. 
  • Materials: Blender, cutting boards, knives (optional; consider pre-cutting ingredients) bowls, spoons, fresh blueberries, other fruits like bananas or strawberries, milk/yogurt or dairy substitute.
  • Instructions:
        • Divide participants into small groups and assign one group to wash fruit, one to measure, and one to prepare bowls and spoons.
        • Encourage everyone to smell the fresh fruits and describe what they smell like. 
        • Once the fruits are clean and ready for the blender, instruct the measuring group to measure out one-cup servings of mixed fruits to pour into the blender.
        • A participant or the leader can fit the lid and press the blender start button.
        • Pour the finished smoothie into a cup or bowl to enjoy, and repeat until each participant has a smoothie.
        • Enjoy a healthy snack!

Blueberry Bonanza Foot Painting

  • Benefits: This activity is a fun, messy tactile sensory experience that promotes creativity and self-expression. 
  • Materials: Large tarp or plastic sheet, shallow trays, washable paints in blue and purple, paper towels, large sheets of paper, blueberry ice cream/ice pops.
  • Instructions:
      • Spread the tarp on a flat surface outdoors and lay down the paper.
      • Pour some blue and purple paint into the trays.
      • Guide participants to carefully dip their bare feet into the paint, creating blueberry-inspired prints on the paper.
      • Let their creativity flow! Encourage them to make handprints also if they wish and explore different patterns. 
      • Clean up with paper towels and water.
      • Offer blueberry ice cream or other blueberry-themed treats to close the session.