Thanks to the unremitting popularity of TV, the internet, cell phones and video games, it’s harder than ever to get kids to spend time outside. There are numerous physical and mental benefits to children spending time in the garden, but how can parents compete with the pull of modern media?
One way to do just that is by making your outdoor space a more inviting and exciting place to be. Children love learning, exploring and interacting, so try adding some of these elements to your garden to get your kids out into the fresh air.
Kids and water definitely mix, so add some water to your garden such as a fountain, relaxing pond or ready made water feature.
Birds and Animals
Children are fascinated by birds and animals so attracting more to your garden could really help to get them out there. Spark your child’s curiosity for the natural world by planting shrubs and trees that attract wildlife.
- Add a bird feeder or bird bath
- Choose plants that attract insects and butterflies
- Build a pond to keep fish and attract frogs and other amphibious creatures
- Create a Refuge
- Kids love hiding places and secret cubby holes so try some of these ideas to add a refuge to your garden.
- Construct a hidden path for biking or walking
- Buy or make a tepee or tent to create a temporary den
- Place family friendly furniture in a quiet corner, such as a kid sized table and a bench
- Build a fort, tree house or cubby house
Movement and Play
Children need space to play so try to create an area where they’ve got room to run around, play ball, climb or use play equipment. Try one of these to add spaces for movement and play to your outside space.
- Children love playing with sand so buy or make a sandpit. You can make a sand box from anything from an old crate to a large bowl, but make sure you use sand designed for the purpose and clean it out regularly.
- Plant fast growing tress that your kids can climb in years to come. Dawn Redwood, Leyland Cypress and River Birches are all very fast growing.
Gardens can be magical places for children so try adding an element of fantasy to yours.
- Grow a sunflower house from seed. Sunflowers are fast growing and with a little planning you can create a Wendy house out of flowers.
- Add mosaics, sculpture and art to your garden. Try breaking up an old mirror and cementing it to an outside wall, it’ll create a magical effect in sunlight. Or get the kids involved and allow them to create their own garden mural.
- Make a fairy garden or model village by planting out a rockery or large planting tub and adding toy houses, toys, and other fun miniature features.
Make Learning Fun
Play is an essential tool for learning so encourage your kids to have fun while they learn by planning some of the elements of your garden with them.
- Plant a sensory garden with plenty of perfumed and tactile plants for kids to explore.
- Make a sundial to accent your lawn.
- Get your kids to make labels or signposts for all your plants.
- Make a vegetable patch or container garden so your kids can experience ‘growing their own’.
Make Room for Togetherness
Spending time bonding with your kids is an essential part of parenthood, so make sure your garden has plenty of places where you and your kids can interact together. Try adding an activity table and chairs for arts and crafts and add some comfortable lounging areas where you and your children can talk and relax.
Remember, kid friendly doesn’t have to mean ugly. All parents want a safe place for their children to play but it’s important that you love the garden just as much as they do. If you don’t want a garden full of jungle gyms, toys and bikes, then take inspiration from The Marshalls Garden That Kids Really Want, which was built at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008.
The garden was developed from the ideas and designs of local school children and featured a rockery that doubled as a climbing wall, a pond for stone skimming and a secret chamber, proving that a family friendly garden can be just as appealing to adults as it is to kids.