Therapeutic Garden with Ornamental Plants for Enhance and Creating Well-Being at Children

Therapeutic Garden
Therapeutic Garden


The most frequent educational space for the children is the outdoor activities landscape, especially how they are conceived according to the age of the target group requirements and needs. The dedicated green spaces for children encourage their creative imagination, offering them the possibility to develop activities in the most pleasant and safest way in the same time.

Therefore, a playground must provide the specific following characteristics: safety, children need centered design concept, secured materials used for the related constructions, accessible, functional and not in the end a socio-economical aspect regarding the costs of the landscape architecture project proposal (costs and maintenance). Children age is the way who to design green space playground, based on the type of activity, sound level, used materials according to the games types and their necessary components, to be equally enjoyed by children and adults as well, requiring a peaceful and relaxing environment, compared to a common playground. In this case, a green playground space can be used by preschoolers and primary school children in the same time, but for the last ones, must be given a bigger playing and resting space, cushioning the noise, than for the little ones. In many cases of primary school green areas, the landscape is without any functionality or aesthetic feature based on children need, so consequently, the present paper presents a landscape architecture concept sketch for a therapeutic garden. This concept sketch can be applied in many learning institutions, using the connection between the young children and nature, easily applied on this site for the good educational development and well-being of the children, increasing the interest to nature by playing games.


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Methodology

3. Results and discussions

4. Conclusions


1. Introduction

At the beginning of the 20th century, industrial revolution and city development required a design and landscape architecture practice to create larger green areas with an important hygienic function character, to satisfy the recreational needs of the population [1]. Today, it is characteristic that in the conception of contemporary gardens and parks, there are no stylistic restrictions, more suited to different practical requirements and needs. A well-designed landscape architecture green space proposal can have many purposes regarding to the people who is using this space.

The most used green spaces, with a wide variety of sizes, shapes and objectives, are those where people can perform various activities, both leisure and sports, and in some cases, this landscape can be only to relax and meditate. Those who are using green spots are children and adults of the third age, high in percentage [2], compared to the rest of the population, visitors of park who are passing through that area.

Nonetheless, there are few who appreciate the existence of the constituent elements of such a space, for example vegetation, because they do not know the benefits and qualities of the human centered on landscape, not only the aesthetically perspective. Therefore, it is apparent from the idea that a person should be educated from childhood, this can be also applied in the awareness of the surrounding environment, and such is parks for children, with educational and meaningful directions or activities.

Starting from the discovery of a plant species, to the actual cultivation of it, these can be learned in a ludicrous and dynamic way, raising the interest for nature of the children and their companions as well.

The desire to play is naturally found as a child, has a precious value. The playing process enhances the self-confidence of children, opening the young mind to new possibilities and social development, verbal and problem-solving skills [3]. Indeed, as an old adage says, Play is the work of a child.” At the same time, it is important to remember that the process and the quality of the game cannot be bought and this is offered by the child's imagination and desire to play.

The sensations development and sensory perceptions through therapeutic gardens, for pre- school and schoolchildren are done through games.

The game is perceived as a free activity in which the child is a volunteer [4]. This activity is defined in space, time and is uncertain because the outcomes are not predetermined.

The game is a mode of training that highlight the natural tendency of children to move, made in nature, garden or therapeutic park, stimulating in this case all the senses: visual, auditory, tasteful, olfactory and kinesthetic ones. In this way all the sensations and perceptions of the child's good adaptation to the environment will be formed.

The resolution of these activities will define small personalities in training as future people of the 21st century.

Childrens recreation is an active part in various collective games, an activity that is not, for example, the view of different shows in nature or a cultural or sporting event [5]. The game is defined by the features it presents [6], namely the type of autotest activity, opposite to the meaning of work (from the purpose point of view) or whose purpose is outside the activity [7], activity which prepares the child for adult work [8], an activity designed to use part of the retained energy in the exercise of a profession, concludes Spencer (1910), a well known biologist [9]; an activity in which the child replays the role of being a grown up,” says psychologist Chateau (1967) [10]. Among the defining aspects of the game and playing, should be kept in mind that, in the first place is a fun activity, enjoyed by pleasure [11].

In the same sense, Chateau [10] defined the game as deliberate physical or mental activity, which is done only to produce joy.It is considered that the use of the game as a method and means of instruction must preserve this feature so that it can still be spoken of by the game, and not by any means of teaching. Developing training situations, from this defining point of view, gives them the opportunity to maintain the interest of the children for their activity [11].

If the game is recognized as free activity (the player engages voluntarily), bounded (the space and time limits are previously fixed) and uncertain (the result and the course of actions are not predetermined), can be noticed that the primary characteristics of the game are the premises of taking over and using as a means of training in general. When the childrens natural tendency for movement is further exploited, it is recommended as a means of training in the field of formative motoring activities [12] and entertainment, pleasure, amusement should not be missing from the recreational activities. However, these techniques to become tools of training, games must have the specialist coordinating support, to achieve the specific training objectives proposed by activity.

Regarding green spaces and public playgrounds, there are areas of a great interest in the city Cluj-Napoca, designed for recreation and leisure as outdoor environment, for all ages [13].

Children constitute a significant part of users in urban open spaces. Because children’s time, spent in open spaces with play during the development, is extremely important and necessarin terms of physical social, emotional, and cognitive aspects. Therefore, nature of the play space is very important [14]. The purpose of the playground project was to design a landscape project proposal as an attractive environment for children in a learning process that will enrich their work to play and to develop the interest on nature.


2. Methodology

Educational institutions green spaces

The school environment may actually provide a direct source of stress for children, thus performing green exercise within school may not have the same impact on self-esteem as performing green exercise outside of the school day.

Green areas designed for childrens recreation and related to different educational institutions can be solitary, one gardens or those can be integrated into larger green spaces or are part of public or neighborhood gardens, public or sports parks etc.

Those places are created for childrens fun, educational and cultural activities, with various shapes (curved, zigzag, rectangular forms), with tunnel, obstacle and labyrinthine elements for example. In this type of landscape, the universal chromatic elements are bright and strong constraints colors [15].

An educational institutions landscape architecture encompasses resting space (bench), childrens playing areas during recreational breaks (playgrounds), grounds for sport activities, green areas for carrying out the practical works of nature sciences and, possibly, sectors to provide the schools household requirements.

A better children development, considering the 3-6 years old children, the optimal green space is 20 square meters in the educational institutions’ green spaces and, for child under the age of 3,25 square meters/child, because the timetable distribution in one day is: 11% eating,16% hygiene, 22% rest-sleep, 16% play, 27% educational program, 8% knowledge of nature.

In this case, many activities can take place in nature (about 90% of the time in summer, 50% in the spring and 50% in the winter and 33% in the winter) and the necessity of allocating and arranging green areas around the buildings for the institution’s education is obvious [16].


Romanian law of green spaces in educational institutions

Analyzing the Romania law in force, which regulates the issue of landscaping according to the requirements of the use of green spaces within the pre-school and school institutions, according to the Government Decision no. 525 from June 27th, 1996, the General Regulation of Urbanism, Annex no. 2 (HG 525/1996-2.2; 2.2.2), require a specific percentage of land use, as follows:

Chapter 2.2 Terms of placing the land;

Article 2.2.2 Educational constructions must include the following: the green area is required to be organized in four areas, dimensioned according to the capacity of the educational unit, as follows:

• occupied area of construction;

 recreation area (asphalted);

• sport fields;

 planting design zone for green space (plants).

For pre-primary education (kindergartens) the minimum green area of 22 square meters/child will be ensured and for primary schools, gymnasiums, lyceums, post-secondary schools or vocational schools a minimum green area of 20 square meters/student. The maximum percentage of green land occupation will refer to all four areas mentioned: 25% of the land occupied by the construction and 75% of the land set up for recreation yard and sports facilities, green area, flower garden from the total land [17].


Design guidelines

Beginning in the 70s and continuing with the urban units to complete up to 1989, the Romanian playgrounds were required to be highlighted in the details of systematization and in the territorial balance part of the respective documentation. The structure of these spaces was made into age categories:

• Category of 0-3 years children benefits from small arrangements similar to children nurseries;

 Category of 3-6 years children had to have: ballasts, slides, swings, rotating platforms, climbing trellises in open spaces. But such a first group, also recommends shaded areas where attendants should aim to avoid accidents;

 Category of 6-10 years children involves the encouragement of collective playing, stimulation of courage, gymnastics, baskets for basketball.

Surfaces with such a destination can vary from about 100 square meters to several hundred square meters, with design rules and location away from heavy traffic, but close to collective and residential areas [18].

The childrens recreation area should be structured as follows: 50-60% planted area, 20-28% playgrounds and sport fields, 8-10% accesses and 5-10% annexes constructions [15].

In the case of preschools, taking into account the outdoor activities, it will be granted between 20 mph/child under 3 years and 25 square meters/child over 3 years. The vegetation will occupy 60-70% of the total surface, dividing the high vegetation will cover 60-70% of the vegetation space and the lawn 40-50%. In the case of schools (pre-university education), the needs are appreciated at about 10 square meters/student, of which the vegetation can occupy between 45-50%.

The technical guidance development of the drafted green area arrangement in 1980 recommends for residential areas 2 to 2.2 square meters/resident in the case of unlimited access green spaces and 1.3 square meters/child [18].

Also, using vegetation, the lands belonging to a group of up to 10 children are separated because, up to the age of 3 years, larger collective games are more difficult to organize. If the garden is intended for kindergarten children (3-6 years old), the common playground is increased in size for 10-15 children, there are design elements with brightly colored floral vegetation [16].

It is important that such planting design arrangements show a lot of imagination (forms, colors, mechanisms), to encourage knowledge and inventiveness, not to forget neither the team spirit nor the shy, solitary ones. In this childhood universe, the general environment has to inspire only good mood and collaboration [18].


Plants selection for specific green spaces in educational institutions

Abundant vegetation with shrubs and trees, arranged perimeter, has the mission to protect and delimit the school green area [18].

The vegetation in these areas is represented by trees and shrubs of the third dimension, floral plants, lawn and climbing species.

The role of vegetation is to ensure a suitable microclimate, especially in warm seasons: tree alignments, homogeneous geometric groups of trees and shrubs and green hedges [15].

In terms of vegetation distribution, planted areas must be more than 50% of the total green area. For the protection of noise, dust and gas, the perimeter of the territory it can be planted with a compact composition of trees and shrubs.

Groups of trees and shrubs could place not to shade classrooms and to prevent the supervision of students; in the case of accesses (entrances and exits from the building) is not used a compact vegetation group, to facilitate movement and do not damage planting.

Sport fields intended to physical education activities classes, will be proposed for settlement in more isolated areas of the site, amongst compact planting plan, to reduce the noise sources during different races. In the field of natural sciences, the following plots are proposed: the plot of fruit trees and shrubs, vegetable garden, melliferous flowers, medicinal plants (Fig. 1), decorative trees and bushes (do not miss coniferous and climbing plants for pergolas).

The trees and shrubs planting design, which occupy most of the territory, are located around sports grounds, with isolation and sound protection, but also for shading purposes.

The association of the species will be such that the obtained compositions will be not a random one, the goal is to act in a stimulating sense (sports area or outdoor dining) or inhibitor (loisir corners for rest) on the mental well-being. It excludes from the proposal for landscape design planting plan solution the plants with thorns, those with leaves, flowers and fruits that have unpleasant, odorous, dirty taste and, of course, the toxic and poisonous ones [16].


Fig. 1

Among the facilities and specific equipments to this types of green areas created for the children recreation, can be mentioned the next ones: open theaters, open-air classrooms, pavilions and kiosks, sports fields, treadmills, bicycle alleys (tricycles, trotters), characteristic playgrounds for different ages equipped with specific units (toboggans, swings, balancing, balance beams, sand pits). All equipment and facilities must have a cultural role, to develop knowledge, to stimulate curiosity towards nature, a role of physical fortification, recreation [15] and sensory development.

The seating and the pedestrian access roads will moderately shade. Green space in the proximity of preschool children groups, where can be created separated areas using bench lounges, particularly useful and pleasant places, where they feel secure [16].

Activities of light intensity as walking, fishing, has a greater effect on self-esteem at children than vigorous activities, for example mountain biking, conservation activities; although all intensities had positive effects. This suggests that green exercise can complement other approaches in making significant improvements to mental health.


Green space playtime (experimental and interactive activity)

In the childhood evolution, the children must develop both the sense of balance and the ability to orient their movements in space. After childbirth, the child needs to develop a series of motor reflexes and reactions adapting it to the environment, gradually evolving towards independence and motor activity aimed at precise purposes. The genetic basis of these reflexes is difficult to contest. Most of these reflections and reactions, which the child develops in his or her evolution, remain alive, sometimes complex as a defense behavior, coordination or balancing reflex [5].

Thats why it is very important that childrens balance develops in a nature-based therapeutic garden. Albu and Albu (1999) claim that a right dynamic balance is essential for all general dynamic coordination and especially for gestures[19]. There is a close link between the problems of static and dynamic balance and the states of anxiety and insecurity childhood.

The teaching and re-education of the balance and orientation of the movements in space is successful only to the extent that the whole complex of proprioceptive and exteroceptive sensations, kinesthetic, tactile, visual, as well as the internal factors that command the triggering of the movement, are taken into account [20].


Experimental or passive horticulture therapy using conducive landscape equipments

Experiential horticulture therapy refers to activities in, or involving nature, but where children are not actively or directly shaping nature as part of that activity. So, nature appreciation activities, making art from fallen leaves, going for a walk in a park, such as walking in a garden, plant photography or any other activity [21]. To the sensations and perceptions development of pre-school and school children, a variety of instruments and ways can be used:

• Pallets for vertical gardens where children can sow and plant different aromatic and ornamental plants for developing taste and olfactory sensations;

 Seating areas (benches) – can be used to develop static balance by keeping the body in different positions; regardless of age, balance is very important to have a superior quality of life;

 Water elements – stimulates hearing, visual and tactile sensations;

 A hammer can be used to increase steadiness and proprioception, due to side balancing when training the vestibular device – located in the inner ear.

Ownership is a term introduced by Sherrington to describe sensory inputs that come from central structures of proprioceptive movements. The main function of proprioceptors is to provide feedback on the movements of the body, in other words to report, which are the movements that the body does [4].

 Kinetic game pit for balancing and spatio-temporal orientation, proprioceptive training, can be achieved by using the following natural elements, for a sensory pathway, as follows: mulch with foliage and fenced with tree trunks (trunks from old trees in the house) which can be balanced because their surface is reduced; walking barefoot through the mulch leaves stimulates the reflexogenic points of the sole.

The use of trunks of hardwoods can arrange in different geometric shapes on which kinds can walk or run. Information from the outside world is received and accurate body position information is provided.

The formation of proprioceptive training is also essential for complete recovery after a trauma for example (to restore the reflexes and reactivate all information channels interrupted by the accident); in the prevention of injury (to have a faster muscular control during the motor act and to encourage the demand of the entire muscle mass, avoiding isolated contractions); in sports training (to have a great sense of balance and absolute control of technical movements).

Closed eye exercises are used to interrupt information systems of balance by forcing the practitioner to exercise more sensitivity to other channels of information. Finally, in order to make proprioceptive training even more difficult, it is possible to create routes with many platforms and unstable soils that can walk, run, jump and perform technical movements.


Interactive or active horticulture therapy using landscape equipments

Interactive activities refer to thing that can be done in nature where the activity itself involves shaping that nature [21]. Proprioceptive sensitivity can be developed by performing basic skills: walking, running, jumping and throwing through the proposed routes. It is a very practical mechanism that aims to provide real-time accurate, real-time information about:

• Biomechanical motion parameters (speed, force, direction, acceleration);

 Physiological state and biological changes occurring in the muscles, tendons and joints as a result of movement.

Most proprioceptive information does not reach the level of consciousness, being responsible only for monitoring the process of motor development and operation. The motor control and execution, in which the engine brain project is transmitted to motor neurons and in the execution phase, neurons activate the musculoskeletal system that faithfully executes commands received. At this level, proprioception is important both for a control mechanism on the correct execution of the movement [4], and for a possible correction mechanism if unpredictable external phenomena are disrupting strategically scheduled engine projects.

Therefore, it can be said that proprioception is controlled by negative loop feedback: action as a system is compared to the programmed action and any difference (error) is reported to the system so that this correction is active.

Proprioceptive sensitivity, in particular proprioceptors, are also the basis of the spinal reflexes: defense reactions so called to maintain the integrity of the body against potentially damaging situations. In this case, the receptors activate certain circuits, only the bone marrow can cause reactive defense movements.

Beyond these many tasks, the proprioceptive system as a whole provides information to nerve structures is capable to develop awareness and consciousness processes and also sends information to the cerebral cortex.

The proprioceptive conscious perception, which we all have, is a construction made by the cerebral cortex based on information from the peripheral sensory receptors. The synthesis of three types of information gives rise to what is commonly called the body image,” which is the awareness of the existence, location and movement of our bodies.

In addition to common sensory channels (seeing, hearing, feeling), each forms this awareness through proprioceptive information.


Proprioceptive (kinase) receptors

Proprioceptors are specialized sense organs that provide information both on positions adopted by the body in resting conditions (own proprioception) and on dynamic (kinesthetic) movement parameters. The role of these messages can be very important at the same time and at different levels for the central nervous system facilities [22].

Proprioception is possible by the presence of specific receptors, proprioceptive or kinetic receptors, sensitive to variations in body postures and body segments [23], which transmit signals from specific brain areas. Proprioceptive receptors consist of nerve endings that start the neurophysiologic process of proprioception [24]. These receptors send impulses through the spinal cord, brain areas contribute to the development of position and movement information necessary for the proper execution of the movement itself. For the development of proprioceptive receptions in pre-school and school children, can be used in a variety of ways:

• Stair ramps can also be used to develop detention (explosive force), force in speed and specific strength; in 3 series by 5-6 ups and downs with a 3-minute break between the series (or more, depends on the level of physical condition) can contribute to its growth.

• Chess can be used by the minds sport to develop cognitive abilities: thinking, attention, memory, imagination; as well as chess as a complementary sport, after a physical training program was repeated in order to make a rest break.

• Bowling – ball helps motric develops: hand-eye coordination, reaction speed and speed of execution and strength of arms and lower limbs; from a psychological point of view, this sport can develop: the ability to focus attention and imagination.

 Excavated gardening beds horticultural therapy, stimulates taste and olfactory sensations.

 Slackline – from the beginning of 1974, Philippe Petit [25] fixed a steel cord between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. These climbing acrobatics were and are a source of inspiration for the slacklining pioneers. In the early part of the 80s, young climbers took part in Yosemite Valley camps and began balancing exercises on chains, cables and railings. Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington were the first to appreciate the wonderful qualities of the tubular nylon gauze for balancing purposes. In contrast to regular balancing on steel or hemp, the nylon band rope offers much more flexibility, is much easier, and has good properties to go on.

The dynamic strap has opened a new universe to equilibrium. Jeff and Adam have ambitions to discover new forms of motion on the line and inspire other slackliners.

Recognized the vertically challenge in 1983 and started and tried to traverse the Lost Arrow Spire on a wire, their idea conquered young Scott Balcom and after an attempt in 1984, the first Arrow Spire Highline thread in 1983 became reality. Slackline has been used for the first time as a game and tool for shaping balance and coordination, transformed in the sense of destroying psychological barriers and gaining a new sense of freedom [21]. 


3. Results and discussions

To achieve the effect of therapeutic gardens in schools, improving sensation and perception at children was absolutely necessary to make an analysis on how the landscaping projects need to be developed for this type of institution and also, how they can be integrated in the Romanian specific design landscaping guidelines.

To create a specific landscape, nature-based on the children needs, a concept sketch was made, according to the landscape architecture requirements mentioned before. A green space in an educational institution can be structured in seven categories, for example, as follows in the next landscape architectural project proposal concept shown in fig. 2.

Pink area (zone 1): for sports and interactive activities field, these include play equipment specifications, sports grounds, mechanical installations typical of amusement parks etc. The form, capacity and equipment of space are designed according to the type of determined activity and number of children performing this activity. Activities which are suggested for children in outdoor areas should contribute to their physical, emotional, mental, and social developments.

Also, it is essential to suggest some areas for the parents to sit and rest since they need to be near their children.

Green area (zone 2): a well centered area, the most important, maid accesses in the garden and school, design for intensive traffic, bounded by ecological grass, sitting area and water elements, inserted with pergolas for shaded areas and specific plants selection for less exposure to sun condition (a good combination for shade garden is to plant ferns beside smooth-leaved ferns). Plants are interesting for children and offer different color options in different seasons with their colorful leaves, flowers and fruits. Study also revealed that purple, pink and white flowers were preferred, while red and white colors were unfavorable.

In terms of fruit color, study also found that red and blue were favorite, while yellow and orange colors were unfriendly [14].

Yellow area (zone 3): active horticulture therapy using landscape equipments as climbing, balance-based sport game fields, animated by the auditory sensation (sounds in the garden) and perception of space, by using green tunnels planted with climber plants. The climbing plants should be appropriate for children’s dimensions and in an appropriate form to climb.

Magenta area (zone 4): an important marginal area, a well centered area where roller tracks and bicycle are positioned, stepping stones, sensory pathways using different textures, surround by green walls of aromatic and ornamental plants. Plant material that will be used in the play space should not be constituted a threat to the health of children. So, toxic species with allergenic pollen and which have thorny should be avoided.


Fig. 2


The first phase of any location for this type of project, must to take into account the number of the children who will use the green playground, a proper dimension of the land, arranged and planted with the best ornamental plants’ selection, proposed for the planting design. In this case, the school green area will serve as a solid base for sensation and perception development, for curious, interested and nature responsive children.

The proposal of this project is in accordance with others studies reported by Schene (2001) where research shows that children who spend time around plants learn better [26]. In addition, being around natural environments improves the ability of children with Attention Deficit Disorder to focus, concentrate, and engage more with their surrounding environment. Keeping plants in a child’s learning environment enhances learning capabilities by helping them to focus and concentrate.

This improves their ability to learn new things and makes it easier for them to absorb and retain information.

Ornamental plants are conducive to generating a positive learning environment, reducing children’s tendency towards distraction and helping them to be better able concentrate on school work.

Specifically, for children with problems paying attention, adding plants to the classroom can have a dramatic positive effect on the way they learn. For example, children with Attention Deficit Disorder, learning in a natural environment can help them to engage more in the classroom, improving their focus and concentration on the task at hand. The soothing effects of natural aesthetic beauty help to minimize the distractions that would otherwise occupy their minds. By altering the environment in which children learn, plants can help them to learn better [27].


4. Conclusions

Nowadays, faster and wider information exchanges, adding human creativity, have led to establish new forms of movement in addition to the classical ones. This present paper wants to discuss and highlight new ways of motion as an alternative to the means used in a drastic way.

It is well known that besides physical education classes in school, the majority of children also do not practice other motoring activities.

So, this proposal for a Therapeutic Garden, where children and preschoolers can develop sensations and perceptions of the 5 senses, at optimal levels, proportionate to their age, will improve their physical and psychical development, achieving well-being even from time spent in green spaces of each school.

Further, research studies on this subject can be done in future, because people associate living in areas with a great deal of natural beauty with a higher quality of life.


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