There is nothing more delicious than the sound of children’s laughter coming from a sunny garden. Whether they’re bouncing on a trampoline, playing imaginary games in a tree house or looking for newts in a pond, children all benefit from an outdoor space that is geared to their needs.
The perfect child’s garden should have somewhere to play, somewhere to hide and somewhere to explore and learn about the world. Naturally, it must also be safe. For advice.
Fortunately, it is possible to have a child-centred garden that also looks good. There are plenty of attractive outdoor toys on the market that blend in with their surroundings and won’t offend the grown-ups in the family. Here are some essential ingredients.
If you’re planning a kid’s garden from scratch, top of the list is water. Despite its obvious dangers, water is a rewarding and enriching play medium. If you have the space, a pond is ideal, although there are obvious safety issues – if you have small children, you will need a low picket fence around the pond to protect them, and you must teach them the hazards of water. If space is limited, fit an outdoor tap and hosepipe for paddling pools and water slides.
Gardening for fun
Kids can also get pleasure from gardening itself, so establish a patch of ground that is their own. Help them dig the soil over, give them a few packets of seed and see their faces light up as they watch ‘their’ plants grow. Try sweet peas – they’re easy to grow and kids love watching the stem of the plant unravel and training itself around a cane, and the flowers are a child’s delight of color and sweet smells. Sunflowers are good too, as they grow tall and have amusing ‘faces’.
Vegetables are also rewarding – children are enchanted when they dig up the earth and discover a treasure trove of potatoes beneath. If you have a warm window sill, or better still a greenhouse, let them have a go with something exotic like a red pepper. Or try fruit bushes and raspberry canes – they are relatively low maintenance (they just need a little weeding and netting from the birds) and give a child the thrill of eating treats straight from the plant.
Always keep tools and garden chemicals out of reach of small hands.
Outdoor toys such as swings and climbing frames can lead to falls, so it’s vital to have a safe surface below any fixture.
If you have a sand pit, cover it when it’s not in use to keep the local cats out. Worm your pets regularly to avoid exposing your children to potentially dangerous parasites.
Ponds and small children don’t mix – replace an open pond with a safe water feature or fit a safety grill.
Be aware which plants are poisonous in your garden. Yew, foxglove, daphne and laburnum are obvious examples that should be avoided. Spiky plants and plants with thorns can also cause damage.