Gardens are our outside havens, a place to get away from the humdrum of everyday life and to relax. They are also an excellent space for hosting friends and family, exercising and carrying out messier DIY projects. Whatever you use your garden for the most, it should be a space for the whole family to enjoy – and that especially includes the kids.
As the summer approaches, it makes sense to take some time to make sure your garden is prepared for the glorious warmer months where you’ll have people round more often, and the kids will be home more than usual. Making sure they have spaces in the garden to play and entertain themselves will make the summer holidays so much easier, and the familiar cry of “I’m bored” become a lot less frequent.
Read on for some clever, child-friendly garden ideas that the whole family will love.
Children’s Play Area Ideas
A play area is an obvious place to start, but if you have the space setting up a dedicated children’s play area is the perfect way to keep your kids active and happy during the warmer months.
So, what could you include in a play area?
Sandpits are a popular choice for a simple play-zone. They can cause quite a bit of mess and be a pain to keep garden debris out of, so make sure you’re willing to put the cleaning time in before you commit to this.
Whilst some people have a sandpit built into the ground, the stand-alone ones are relatively inexpensive to buy. Just make sure you buy play sand and not cheaper builder’s sand which is a lot grittier and can be sharp & uncomfortable.
If you want to DIY it, check out this great step-by-step guide.
Climbing frames are a brilliant way to keep your kids busy and active whilst you’re all in the garden. They make the perfect backdrop for hundreds of make-believe games, excellent obstacle courses, and for the more creative child – a wonderful place to build a den or clubhouse. You can get great modular climbing frames that come with interchangeable swings and more to keep it exciting for many years.
A permanent obstacle/assault course is perfect for competitive kids who love to run around. Check out local playgrounds for inspiration and plot your own assault course using reclaimed materials like tires, netting and wooden stumps. Ensure the area is grassy or has wood chips down to keep knees and elbows from being constantly grazed.
Garden Den Ideas
The good old garden den is a place built for memories, ‘gang’ meetings, and summer sleepovers. Whatever your kids are into, they’re sure to appreciate a den of any form, especially if you get them involved in the designing, building and decorating process. It will give them a valuable space outside of the house to play and relax in and give them a sense of privacy and responsibility.
These are our favourite den ideas:
Keep it simple by getting your hands on a garden playhouse. They come pre-built or are relatively simple to assemble and provide a dry, spacious inside spot for your children to play all year round. They can also be decorated in a huge number of ways to suit their personality.
If looked after, a playhouse will last for years on end, so it is definitely a worthwhile investment.
Teepees are a unique den solution that are amazing during spring and summer months. They’re easy to take down when you need the space but are solid enough to stay up for months on end.
You can buy tepee kits online or make one yourself using wooden dowels, rope, a good amount of waterproof fabric and something to put on the floor.
Pallets and Boards
If you consider yourself a DIY god, why not keep costs low and fill a few weekends by making a den from pallets and boards? Get your child involved in the process from start to finish. Ask them to draw the perfect den and take inspiration from it and have them do simpler jobs when you’re putting their den together.
If you’ve decided to paint the den, let them get their hands dirty (if you’re worried about how this will look in your garden, stick to one colour – otherwise, let their imaginations run wild.)
Make it cosy
Once your den is up and running, don’t forget to show the inside some love, since this is where all the fun will be happening. Here are some easy décor ideas:
- Theme – choose a loose theme like pirates, princesses, or the jungle and base your decorations on this.
- Motifs – paint or sticker motifs on one, or all, of the walls.
- Chalkboard wall – paint one of the walls or a section of a wall with chalkboard paint for an easy, wipe-clean canvas.
- Blankets & cushions – sacrifice a few blankets and cushions for their den, or they will inevitably pinch the good ones from the house.
- Toy storage – make sure they have places to keep toys that end up in the den; this will make clean-up miles easier.
- Light – get some torches to keep in the den, or find other battery-powered lighting solutions. Make sure you choose waterproof lights in case rain gets in.
Remember, a den is a sacred space for a child, so let them take the lead in what they keep in there.
The garden is an ideal learning resource, and there is so much you can get up to with your kids that will contribute to their education. Here are just a few ideas.
Mud kitchens are fantastic for younger children (think primary school age). Their goal is to mimic a real kitchen, with the main ‘food’ ingredient being mud. Children can get their hands dirty, mix up potions, follow recipes and play make-believe games in mud kitchens.
They encourage different play styles like sensory, exploratory and imaginative play which they can apply to other situations. They are also great places for young ones to learn how to problem solve, develop motor skills and even learn maths and English whilst having a lot of fun[i].
You can buy mud-kitchen sets, but to make your own you will need:
- A play kitchen that you are willing to let get dirty – many people make these from pallets.
- Different preparation surfaces
- A wall with hooks to hand pots and pans on
- Old kitchen utensils like spoons, spatulas and grabbers
- Old pots, pans, baking sheets, measuring jugs and crockery (aim for metal and plastic where possible – anything that can smash poses a danger)
- Most importantly – plenty of soil and water
This article has some great inspiration – click here.
Remember, the goal is to get messy – don’t sacrifice any kitchen equipment unless you can accept it will probably never be usable in your kitchen again!
Gardening has never-ending benefits for people of all ages. A brilliant idea to engage your children in gardening is to set up their very own vegetable plot. As well as teaching them where their food comes from, it will help them to learn about responsibility and how to take care of things.
Involve them in the process from start to finish and buy them their own special gardening tools.
Making sure your garden is safe and secure is extremely important, especially when you have younger children. Before warmer weather hits, check the following:
- Storage – garden storage boxes aren’t only useful for keeping your garden tidy and trip-hazard free, but they will also ensure any expensive play equipment is kept out of sight when you aren’t outside.
- Locks – If you have gates that lead to outside your property, make sure the locks are in working order and can’t be reached by your children.
- Fix holes in fences and hedges – take a walk around the border of your garden and take note of holes in fences and hedges that your child might be able to get through.
- Tools – make sure all tools are put away securely and can’t be accessed by little hands.
- Hard ground – make sure that the ground around any play equipment is soft (e.g grass, or covered with wood chippings) – this will make any falls and tumbles less damaging.
Have fun in your garden
However big or small your garden is, there’s a tonne of activities you can do to keep your little ones entertained – go out, have fun and make some memories in your garden today.
Natural Nurture, 2016. Learning Benefits of a Mud Kitchen. [Online]
Available at: https://naturalnurture.org/learning-benefits-mud-kitchen/
Ryan Jenkins is a professional gardener and has been working in the gardening industry for over 25 years. This has allowed Ryan to accumulate a vast wealth of gardening knowledge which he shares on the Sefton Meadows blog.