Sunday 1 July 2018

7 Tips For A Family-Friendly Garden

For the days when you can’t be bothered to lug a balance bike all the way to the park and back, the garden is the perfect way to give your kids that much-needed dose of Vitamin D. The best thing about your garden is that it’s right next to your house. You don’t have to wrestle anyone into their car seats, grow older waiting for a toddler to walk to the park, or carry a preschooler home from the park because her ‘legs hurt’.

It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s safe. Or it should be. If not, you might want to work on that. I have so many fond memories of happy hours spent in the garden when I was growing up. I can remember elaborate imagination games played on the climbing frame with friends after school. I remember pasta salad picnics on the grass when the weather was nice. I remember ruining all of my mum’s flowers in a desperate quest to manufacture the perfect perfume (step one: pick the heads off all your mum’s favourite flowers, step two: present them to her in a bottle of tap water as though you have done her a favour).

Here are 7 tips for a family-friendly garden:

1. Make it low maintenance
There isn’t much spare time for gardening when you’re busy looking after small children. The last thing you want to add to your already mind-boggling to-do list is a list of green-fingered jobs you’ll never get round to. Astro turf is a great option for families who simply don’t have time to mow their lawns regularly. Artificial grass is great for kids to play on and you don’t have to worry about it getting muddy. Wildflowers patches are a low-maintenance garden's best friend, you don’t need to spend hours caring for the plants but they still look beautiful.

2. Use it whatever the weather
Many people make the mistake of planning their garden around the illusive summers we get in the UK. The sun only shines for part of the year, so you’d be much better designing a garden that can be used in all weathers. The lawn will get muddy when it rains, but a paved area near the backdoor will allow your kids to play outside (without ruining your lawn) even after heavy rainfall. Add in a sheltered area where you kids can hide from the rain or enjoy playing in the shade, depending on the weather.

3. Create a play area
If you don’t want to hand your whole garden over to the kids, you need to make sure they have a corner of the garden to play in. Somewhere away from the delicate flowers and the scratchy shrubs where they can kick a ball and do handstands. Make sure the space is versatile and can be used for all kinds of games. You could include things like a blackboard wall, a climbing frame, a treehouse and a sandpit. Think of things that could be used in more than one way so that your kids won’t get bored when they’re playing in the garden.

4. Build a highway
Ok, it doesn’t have to be an actual highway, but make sure there’s a place for toy traffic. Every family garden is filled with bikes, scooters and plastic cars. Dragging these toys to the park is absolutely no fun, so, if you have space, you should create a paved area for wheeled toys in the garden. A little path is the perfect place for scooting at speed, honing their cycling skills and reversing in a red and yellow car (No? Just my toddler who only goes backwards?).

5. Have a designated dining spot
There is nothing better than eating outside, is there? It works best on holiday when the sun is gloriously hot and you have a cold beer in your hand, but it’s pretty ok in England, too. When the weather is nice, soak up every second by eating outside as a family. Make sure you have somewhere to eat. It doesn’t have to be a fancy dining table and chairs, it could be as simple as a picnic blanket laid out on the astroturf, but make sure you have a place to share meals as a family. Ok, there will be ants and your kids will forget to eat because they’re so busy playing, but that’s what summer is all about.

6. Make it somewhere you want to spend time
If you want to make the most of your garden, you need to make sure it’s somewhere you enjoy spending time. Your kids probably won’t spend much time out there without you, so make sure it’s set up for your needs as well. Do you have a comfy seating area where you can read a book? Is there a barbecue so you can cook outside on warm days? Are you making the most of the patch of garden that gets evening sun? Think of the garden as an extra room of your home and decorate it as such, make sure it is functional as well as beautiful.

7. Get them involved

Even a low maintenance astroturf garden needs a bit of looking after, so get your kids involved in the garden chores that need doing. Make sure you have some kid-sized garden gloves and a spade so you can plant some flowers together. You could even grow a little vegetable garden together, this is a great way to teach young children more about where food comes from. If there is weeding to be done, get them involved (but keep a close eye on which plants they're uprooting).

This is a collaborative post. Photo by Martin Kníže on Unsplash

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