Child friendly Garden Design
Yesterday I was out recruiting clients and a homeowner asked me if I could design something that would be suitable for her kids.
Bien Sur! I said–easiest thing ever. All you have to do is think of the things that kids love to do, and make sure your yard has that. What do kids like? Climbing, hiding, getting wet, exploring, experimenting, and of course, critters. And my first advice was “Take out the lawn.”
So let’s start with climbing. Of course you can nail ladder rungs to a tree, or build a play structure, or you can incorporate climbing into the garden design. If you have a slope that needs remediation, good big rocks that act as retaining walls could also be chiselled with footholds. or use other funkier materials for retaining walls.
As long as the rocks are big enough, or embedded deeply enough, that is one great climbing wall. The one above is I believe concrete…things. If they’re constructed like a jelly roll, they’ll probably be close to two feet long.
This could be a little secret garden, where a small patio or grassy patch is surrounded by shrubs or small trees. With a path of course, connecting it to the next secret garden or other space. Or a teepee with a wide base with runner beans growing. Or how about a mini-meadow of tall grasses? (Which makes me think of Cary Grant hiding from James Mason in a corn field.)
Nothing kids like more than making a mess in water and mud. But you can have the water without the mud and they’ll still love it. A pond-less waterfall has all the joy of flowing bubbling water without the risk of a toddler falling in unnoticed.
You can get it done by pond-less waterfall suppliers, or DIY with a lot of Internet research.
Think of a museum, or a zoo, or a science centre, where you take a defined route, and there’s something new to see around every corner. You can create the same anticipation in your garden with paths, varying height plants, and then exciting things to find around the bend.
Who doesn’t want the children to have a better understanding (than we did) about food sources. We’ve all heard of the surprise that some have when they find out that the carrots that come in a bag, all shiny and tiny, actually come from the ground. Dirty! If you grow a vegetable garden with your children, they’ll love being told to go out to the veggie patch to harvest a snack. Just have a bucket of water handy for them to rinse off their snack. Great to choose plants that are quick growing to start with. Beans are quick to germinate and grow, but slow to produce a harvest. Radishes are productive in only a month and snow or snap peas are not only quick to produce, but also clean to eat. Then there’s always sunflowers: growing so large you can almost see them sprouting.
Butterflies, frogs, beetles, spiders, birds, dragonflies. You can have them all in your own garden for your children to enjoy. The main thing you need for this is diversity. Trees and tall shrubs give shelter to birds. Water –even the pond-less water feature– will draw dragonflies and possibly even frogs. And the birds will love it. Spiders and beetles don’t need much encouragement, but letting some of the garden stay a little messy will still give them habitat. And plants with tiny flowers for the butterflies.
Letting some of your carrots or dill or parsley or coriander go to seed is perfect.
Redesigning your garden meet the needs of the whole family isn’t rocket science. It’s work, but fun work, and imagining your children enjoying so many different experiences is the place to start.