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Baby in Garden

Designing a Garden for Kids

When designing a garden for children, your design will reflect the age and ability of the kids and is likely to be more practical than ornamental. There is no reason not to combine both though, and have a garden design which is both a safe and welcoming play area for the children, but still full of fascinating and beautiful plants and structures.

Having had a fair number of years of providing gardens for the children to play in (we have moved regularly!), there are a few basics to bear in mind which I would like to pass on to you:

You will want your garden to be easy to maintain. After all, the time you spend in the garden is meant to be primarily having fun – a complicated garden design with lots of delicate or high-maintenance plants is not recommended.

Designing a Garden Together

When designing a garden start off by measuring it.

Draw the dimensions out on a squared paper with ink and draw in any permanent structures, eg paths, mature trees and bushes, garden shed – anything which either cannot be easily moved or which you don't fancy moving.

Once you have established what is staying and which spaces you have to play with, have a family brainstorming session and work out what each member expects from the garden and would like to see in it.

You can then draw these new structures into your design with pencil until you are all happy with the design.

Work with what is there. If you have have moved into a house with a garden which is just laid to lawn, great, you have a blank canvas to start off with. But often your garden will already have a number of mature plants or trees, borders and maybe garden structures. Where possible, use these features and incorporate them into your garden design ideas – the exception obviously being ponds and young children ... how about converting it into a sandpit?

Avoid delicate or fragile plants unless they are well out of reach of a football! You don't want to be worrying about your flower borders while the children are running around, that would spoil both their fun and your enjoyment!

Check the garden out for hazards. Your garden is meant to be a welcoming and SAFE play and/or relaxation space for yourself and your kids, not a potential accident waiting to happen! A few years ago we moved into a cottage with a lovely mature garden which offered loads of potential for designing a garden which was like an adventure playground. But this garden included broken fencing (and escape route for the toddler!), a very prickly bush and an old greenhouse with glass panes. We fixed the fencing, removed the prickly bush and fenced off the bottom of the garden where the greenhouse was located, then set about adding more child-friendly bushes and play equipment.

Know what you are planting. Before buying new plants, find out as much as you can about them. Do they demand much care? How big are they likely to get and how fast do they grow? Todays impulse buys can be tomorrows 'problem' in the garden.

Keep it age appropriate. If you have children of different ages, your garden design will reflect their different needs (and yours!). Younger children will generally want more opportunities to play and explore, older ones may want a garden they can relax in or kick a ball around in.

And finally, designing a garden is a family event, just like the garden itself! Plan the garden together with your children. What would they like? What sort of play equipment is suitable for their current age and how suitable will it be as they get older? Think longer term, eg can the wooden sandpit you and your kids fancy be converted into a raised bed for flowers or growing vegetables once the children have outgrown it?

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