How to create a child friendly garden
Do you have fond memories of playing games outside as a child? Time spent outdoors while young is so invaluable, and that’s why providing a safe and child friendly space is important. There are so many physical and mental benefits, and getting your kids outdoors and away from the TV will pay off later on.
Gardens can be amazing play areas, as long as they’re designed to appeal to youngsters. If you’ve spent a long time carefully crafting your garden into a gloriously sophisticated oasis just the way you like it, you might think that introducing child friendly elements could be a challenge. After all, bright plastic swing sets or trampolines don’t blend well into any environment. But adding a few enticing elements into your garden can go a long way.
Children love water and to play with water, so providing water in a controlled environment will be a big hit. Who doesn’t love to dash through a line of sprinklers on a hot afternoon?
The easiest way to add water to your garden is to create a fountain or water feature such as a little waterfall or pond. If you’re trying to tamp down on your utility bills and conserve water, perhaps a feature designed specifically to recycle water could be just the ticket.
Living, breathing, moving creatures are a sure way to get children interested, and offers an opportunity for them to learn more about the natural world. Consider installing a fish pond, bird feeder, or growing plants that attract butterflies and other insects.
Adding a few areas specifically for childplay is another way to get youngsters outdoors. Think treehouses, forts, teepees, sandpits, even small trails or paths they can wander down. There should also be open spaces for them to run, jump or kick a ball around. Try to keep large open grass areas well maintained to make them more appealing. Regular mowing is key (you may even want to invest in a ride on mower if the size of the area warrants it). If there’s landscaping with rocks and logs for climbing, even better.
Other things you could introduce are themed gardens, sculptures, mazes, signposts for plants, or even a sundial – anything out of the ordinary and a little bit special. It helps to pick materials that complement the rest of the garden and help integrate them into the overall look.
When it comes to planting your garden, think about balancing a few different options. Giant flowers are fun for kids to play in and around (hide and seek anyone?), while an edible garden of fruits and vegetables, especially plants that produce small fruits (cherry tomatoes or baby peppers) in a range of colours will also provide points of interest. Children can be encouraged to grow their own plants as well. The sense of ownership and responsibility is a great thing to instil.
It’s also wise to plant greenery that can withstand some rough and tumble. Sturdy grasses can tolerate the stress, and offer a great surface for picnics, and even for rolling on or hiding in. Try grouping plants in clumps rather than neat linear rows; that way any gaps will be less obvious and the plants more easily replenished.
Play it safe
Safety is always a concern when children are involved. You can bet that if there’s any way to hurt themselves, they will hone in on it. Ensure all garden areas of the garden are visible from the house so you can keep an eye on things, as you won’t always be right there in the garden alongside the kids.
Minimize the dangers by ensuring bodies of water are fenced off, covered, or high out of the way – young children can drown in very shallow depths. Opt for grass or earth where possible over concrete, paving or other hard landscaping. Playhouses or climbing frames, in particular, should be set up away from hard ground areas. Artificial lawns can be used in place of grass, and there are hard-wearing, padded options specifically designed for children available.
Spiky or thorny plants should be kept to a minimum, as these pose a hazard to curious children. Loose stones and pebbles can also pose a choking hazard – you never know what children may take it upon themselves to try swallowing – and are another thing to watch out for.
Finally, remember that children love to run, jump, explore and interact. Appealing to all their senses is a great way to get them active outdoors. Be sure to incorporate their play areas into the main garden – children hate being excluded, so banishing the kid’s refuge to a corner well out of the way won’t work.