Having a young family needn’t spell disaster for green-fingered parents, grannies and grandpas. Dawn Isaac explains
Thankfully a child-friendly garden needn’t look like an explosion in a plastics factory or a scaled down version of the local playground. Although it’s worth investing in one or two key play items such as a trampoline or a decent-sized playhouse, it’s important to remember that children have an incurable need to keep growing up, and what is a must-have one year may be redundant before next summer.
Instead, it’s better to create lots of play opportunities on a much smaller scale that integrate better with the garden. These are easier to change or replace as the children’s interests – and abilities – grow. Luckily the child-sized nature of these attractions means you can fit plenty in, and they often slot neatly into otherwise neglected spaces.
And never forget that a family includes more than just children, so make sure the garden can still work as a place for adults to relax after the children are tucked up in bed.
1. Kids will soon outgrow the play house
2. Permanent washing line spoils view
3. Children's plastic toys dominate space
4. Little planting or seasonal colour
Sink a trampoline
An in-ground trampoline means this play equipment doesn’t dominate the space and excavated topsoil is used to form a turfed mound around the edge to hide it further.
Upgrade the playhouse
The plastic Wendy house has been swapped for a larger wooden version that offers more space for children as they grow. Brushwood has been added to hide the felt roof and the house is stained with garden-friendly colours.
Create a ‘sling-it’ space
A trellis section with planting in front creates a hidden area where bulky play equipment can be moved at a moment's notice to create a more grown-up entertaining space.
Add a retractable washing line
A retractable washing line is fixed to the house wall and can be hooked onto the shed when needed but automatically winds back when you have finished which hides it from view.
Introduce a retaining wall
A small retaining wall means the terrace can be extended to give more dining and seating space for large family meals.
Create extra storage space
An attractive wooden bench with storage underneath has been added to the terrace so small play items can be accessed – and cleared away – easily.
Make use of dead space
Redundant space by the side of the shed has been used to house a mud pie kitchen and outdoor chalkboard for children’s play.
Lay a log walkway
Large logs have been placed among beds to form raised stepping stones and allow children to explore through the planting.
Leave space to play
Plenty of lawn has been left for larger garden games to be enjoyed because it’s always good to burn off some energy.
Make steps more welcoming
The narrow steep steps have been replaced with wider, shallower steps that draw people into the upper garden and are easier for small people to climb
Create a sandpit
Oak sleepers form an edge to a large, lined, excavated space filled with plenty of play sand for some serious castle building
Use a sink for water play
A butler’s sink has been raised on bricks beneath an outside tap to create a water play area. The plug can be kept by grown-ups to ensure water is only there when children are supervised.
READ MORE Subscribe to our digital edition