Approximately 87% of households in the UK have a garden, either private or shared and creating a child-friendly garden is important to many. During the pandemic, gardens have proven a much-needed source of mental health support and comfort. Whether you are an enthusiastic gardener or you can barely tell your rose bush from your tomato plant, a garden offers a little slice of green peace in a loud and urban world. So it makes sense that children would enjoy playing in the garden.
Did you know that the average garden size in the UK is 190m2? Yet sizes vary greatly between houses. A mid-terrace garden is around a quarter the size of a detached house garden. Regardless of the size of your garden, you can make some smart additions to create a child-friendly playground. Here are some ideas to get started.
Ideally, you want to be able to share the use of the garden. So, the perfect garden has not only an area where your child can play freely, but it also includes the flowers and plants you wish to grow. That’s precisely why it’s important to create sections in your garden.
For instance, you can create a flower border framing the outside of the house, using weed barrier fabric to keep a clean gap between each plant. The middle area of the garden can be used as the play area for your child.
In the area the furthest away from the house, you can build a BBQ for outdoor grilling, for example. Clear separation between each area can ensure everyone is making the most of the garden!
A cosy little shed
What is the most popular play area in a playground? The swings? The slide? The seesaw? All wrong. It’s the small little cabin where children can spend hours pretending to run a household. Playing is part of healthy development. Playing by mimicking grown-ups is precisely the way children learn to interact with each other and identify with their social environment. So, if you are wondering what you should add to the garden, skip the slide and opt for a cute little playhouse. Some necessary additions will make the house complete:
- A small table for drawing and playing
- A chair or a beanbag
- A chest with “safe” toys, aka toys they can safely leave outside/in the outside cabin without damaging them
- Decorations to make it look like a real house, including painting the inside or hanging a small frame
- Small play kitchen or play workshop for children who love these
- Books and colouring books for older children
A wildlife-friendly feature
What’s the point of playing outside if you never get to observe nature? Encouraging your child to respect and appreciate nature can start with something as small as installing a birdhouse or a hedgehog shelter. You can build and install the feature with them, orienting the placement so they can see it from their playhouse. Being close to nature is a soothing experience for all. Starting to appreciate and respect nature from a young age can also give children stress relief after a tough day at school, for example!
Older children can even keep a journal of observations about wildlife activities, such as noting whether birds have moved in and how things are progressing.
Some features that you might want to avoid with young children:
- A bee or bug house, as young children could get stung if they are not careful
- A water feature such as a small pond
- Keeping bee-friendly plants too close to their play section
A lawn or no lawn?
A lot of parents worry about ticks and bugs hiding in the grass. So, you may be tempted to opt for artificial grass to cover the play section. But here are some things you might want to bear in mind:
- Artificial grass accumulates debris and dirt.
- Ticks and bugs do travel, and they can find their way on the artificial lawn too.
- The artificial lawn can prevent water absorption, so the rainwater could create stagnant puddles around the fake grass.
There are some benefits to using artificial grass if your child has severe allergies or a poor immune system, as it will be safer than natural lawn. However, if your child’s health is not compromised, actual grass may be a better bet for your garden maintenance.
There is, of course, no such thing as the person child-friendly garden. What your child’s garden should entail will depend entirely on what your child enjoys. However, these few ideas can, hopefully, give you some food for thought. From introducing a safe little cabin where they can relax to introducing them to wildlife, there are hundreds of different options! But remember, the best plans are those that include everybody’s needs and opinions. So don’t plan your child-friendly garden alone; let them in onto the fun!