The common practice for child-friendly garden design is to transform the space into a playground with wood chips everywhere. However, there are ways to design a garden that is both exciting for children and attractive to adults. Usually, people start by buying a large set of play equipment and then try to force it into the garden. There are more subtle ways to create a garden that your children will love without sacrificing your own enjoyment.
ZONES IN GARDEN DESIGN
Zoning can help you design a space that is divided into separate areas for different activities. For example, you can have a area for children to play, an area for gardening, and a area for adults to relax, without the areas being too close together and without having to worry about things like balls ruining your plants or adults feeling uncomfortable in the middle of a noisy play area.
Examples of garden design zones
- Seating areas
- Play areas
- Grow your own zone
- The separation between the zones (walls, borders, hedges)
CHILD-FRIENDLY MATERIALS IN GARDEN DESIGN
In a child-friendly garden, timber sleepers are a good choice for separating the zones and providing structure. They are tall enough to protect a toddler from the border, but also tall enough to be used as a seat or perch for growing children and adults.
Although harder materials such as stone can provide more durability, they also come with the increased risk of children running into them or experiencing sharp edges.
Many parents worry that stone paving will provide a harsh surface for their children to play on. However, gravel is a much softer surface which can lead to uneven areas for seating. Also, younger children have a habit of trying to eat small pieces of gravel! In my experience, paving for paths and seating areas is the best option. Meanwhile, turf or woodchip should be used in play areas where falls and bumps are more likely. Therefore, choose the material for the zone you’re designing carefully.
CHILD-FRIENDLY PLANTING IDEAS
Some gardeners believe that it is never acceptable to have any poisonous plants in the garden, while others believe that this is not a realistic approach given that most plants have some kind of toxin.
Super-toxic plants like Monks Hood, Lilly of the Valley, and Euphorbia should be avoided if children are around since their saps are highly irritant on the skin. Even though Hydrangeas, Foxgloves, and Daffodil bulbs are seemingly safe, they contain cyanide and are poisonous if eaten in large quantities. Children should be taught to respect plants and only eat them if they are edible.
The Daffodil, which is not typically considered to be a dangerous plant, can actually be toxic if the bulb is ingested.
My argument is that you should design your garden in a way that is friendly for children. This means considering what plants to put in, as children may try to eat them. However, if you provide enough other activities and play areas in the garden, children will be less likely to eat the plants.
LIST OF PLANTS TOXIC TO CHILDREN IF EATEN
The following plants should be avoided in the garden: Monks hood, Giant Hogweed. Monks hood is the real nasty of the group. Giant Hogweed is often found in the woods and can be 7ft tall or taller. Its sap strips melatonin from the skin causing blistering and years of skin damage. If you see it, report it to your council for removal.
- Amaryllis bulbs
- Asparagus fern
- Bergenia (elephants ears)
- Daffodil bulbs
- Digitalis (Foxgloves)
- Hemerocallis (Day Lilies)
- Lily of the valley
- Morning glory
- Monks Hood
- Rhubarb leaves (Toxic to everyone if eaten)
- Tulip bulbs
- Umbrella plant
13 GARDEN IDEAS FOR KIDS
- PLANT UP A VEGGIE PATCH
kids will have a blast growing their own fruits and vegetables. Consider planting quick-growing options like courgettes, tomatoes, carrots, lettuces, and micro salads.
Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can still grow plants in window boxes, containers, or hanging baskets.
- TREAT YOUR KIDS TO THEIR OWN TOOLS
A great way to make your slightly older kids interested in gardening and to make them feel like they have some responsibility is to get them their own set of gardening tools. There are loads of options out there that were made for small hands, just check the suitable for your child’s age before you buy.
tools, such as lighter shovels, can make the gardening process easier. Personalized gloves can also help children feel a sense of importance when completing a task. This is according to Chris Bonnett, founder of Gardening Express.
Set aside a couple of square meters for the child to take ownership of. This will teach them responsibility for their designated area. If you don’t have a lot of space in your yard, try using plant pots instead. Indoor plants are also a great idea and can be placed on windowsills or tables. Keep this area clean, free of weeds, and with good quality soil.
- HAVE A GROWING COMPETITION
It’s fun for children to compete against each other, plus the idea of ‘winning’ gives them the motivation to stick at something. Paint pots a different color for every member of the family and plant a seed, then see who grows the largest and healthiest. It’s a great way to teach your kids how to care for plants and give them a long-term project.
The best type of seed to use for this project is sunflowers, but anything that grows quickly and is tall would work well too, such as sweet peas, runner beans, or tomato plants.
- BUILD A TIPI DEN
There is something so exciting about having a space in the garden that is only for kids. They love having an adult-free space to play in and feel like they have more freedom. If you have older kids, you can help them build a tipi out of branches stacked against a tree. If you have younger kids, a washing line with some fabric pinned over it will provide just as much fun.
In the evenings you can enjoy the same feeling as if you were camping in the wilderness by lighting a fire in your backyard rather than sitting under a tarpaulin.
- OR ADD A PERMANENT CABIN TO YOUR BACKYARD
If your children enjoy playing in a fort or den, you could make a more permanent structure in your backyard. constructing a log cabin with an open front would be ideal for colder weather and something that all ages could enjoy. You could make it feel even more comfortable by placing blankets and solar powered fairy lights inside.
- BUILD A CLIMBING FRAME
If you have the space, an activity center is great for encouraging physical activity and social interaction. An activity center is a great way to get your kids to enjoy the outdoors more. If you’re good at DIY, you can easily build one yourself, but there are also plenty of options for buying an activity center or climbing frame. If you have the space, an activity center is great for encouraging physical activity and social interaction.
Consider the following when choosing a climbing frame: – It needs a flat, stable base – If self-built, it must be constructed to take the weight of adventurous children swinging off their extremities – The wide footing supports can be buried if you don’t want them to be visible
The wood used to build a wooden climbing frame must be pressure-treated to make it more durable. It is also a good idea to give it an annual coat of preservative.
Climbing frames with roofs provide a shady spot and a treehouse that doesn’t need a tree – you’ll find your children spend hours up there.
To improve children’s motor skills and bravery, include a climbing wall, a slide, and a rope swing.
- ADD A MUD KITCHEN
Mud kitchens can keep your kids busy for hours outside. Even if the weather isn’t great, you can still put them in some warm clothes and send them outside to make all sorts of backyard-inspired dishes.
- EDUCATE YOUR KIDS BY ENCOURAGING WILDLIFE
Gardening for kids can be educational and fun by creating a wildlife-friendly garden. Watching birds and insects provides hours of fun and is good for the environment. Bird feeders, birdhouses, and bee hotels will make even more of an impact. Why not make one with your kids over a weekend?
- MAKE YOUR GARDEN MAGICAL WITH A FAIRY GARDEN
Because kids usually want to believe that fairies live in their garden, you can create an enchanted garden at the base of a tree. To do this, add a fair door (Etsy has loads of cute options) and then help your children build paths and fences and plant mini gardens for the fairies.
- ADD A POND (EVEN IF IS TINY)
If you don’t want to create a large pond, you can still have an exciting and educational experience by adding a smaller container to your garden.
You will need a relatively large bucket for this project. The bucket should be as large as you can fit and it cannot have any drainage holes. To begin, add a layer of stones and gravel to the bottom of the bucket. If you have the room, you could create different levels by using larger stones. After the stones, add in a selection of small pond plants. Some good choices for plants would be Miniature waterlily, Flowering rush, and Starwort. Lastly, fill up your pond. If you can, allow it to fill with rainwater. This would be better for your wildlife.
Be sure to include a ramp or sloped edge on your container pond so that any animals in it can easily escape.
- CREATE A SPOT FOR KIDS TO CHILL OUT
Having a designated area in the garden with plenty of seating is a good idea for kids. Small kids can get tired from gardening and older kids like to have a place to relax, so having a place for them to sit down will be beneficial.
You should provide plenty of shade, especially during the summer months, by using patio umbrellas or pergolas and adding climbing plants to create a living canopy.
A decked area raised off the ground will make a great garden for kids – being barefoot friendly and less slippery and more forgiving than patio paving.
- PICK AND PRESS YOUR FLOWERS
Making things out of pressed flowers is a fun way to spend an afternoon in the garden, picking blossoms and then turning them into crafts. To do this, plan ahead and plant a wildflower garden, which requires minimal care and just involves scattered packets of seeds. Let the kids pick the flowers and either use a flower press kit or press them between the pages of books. After a few days, they can be turned into cards, posters, picture frames, and more.
- BRING ARTWORK OUT INTO THE GARDEN
You can get your kids to enjoy fresh air and nature by setting up a craft station for them outdoors. Tables and chairs are all you need, and you could even invest in an outdoor chalkboard. Tasks like drawing things they can see in the garden or keeping a tally of how many different types of birds they see are perfect for getting them interested in their surroundings.
I enjoyed working on these designs, even though it was challenging because of the limited space and poor soil quality. The design is successful because it meets the needs of both adults and children. It uses straight lines, zones, and divides the garden space in a way that is appropriate for the family. As the children grow up, the garden will be able to change to meet their new needs.
You can create a garden that is suitable for both children and adults by using zones and carefully considering the purpose of each area. By thoughtfully planning each area, you can have a space for playtime and relaxation without compromising the design.