The Kid-friendly Garden
What applies to the child-proof house, applies to the child-proof garden.
Because kids don’t presume anything is “just for looks” everything in the garden should be sturdy and “usable”. Look at it from an active kid’s point of view: what looks good to jump on, hang on, pull on, throw, or otherwise use as play equipment? (Even if your kids don’t think that way, the neighbor’s kids might.) Is there anything positioned badly (a clothesline at the bottom of a hill, a statue at the turn of a corner).
Sharp corners on decks or raised beds are also hold the potential for accidents. Corners
that can’t be removed can be softened with shrubbery or padding. Pathways also require special care.
Position stepping stones and steps close enough to accomodate shorter strides and avoid
anything that children can’t run on safely (for example, loose paving stones).
Room to play
Naturally, your family’s personal interests are the best guide to go by when deciding how you’ll use your garden space. Do you need open lawn
space for ball games, a “secret garden” area for young girls’ tea parties, or a “fort” for the boys? Making room for the children doesn’t have to cost a lot, either. A short hedgerow or a vine-covered trellis positioned to screen off one corner of the garden can, with a little imagination, be anything from a school for dolls to a pirate ship.
Backyard Play Equipment
Even much of the “fancy” looking play equipment on the market can be surprisingly
inexpesive. Needless to say, anywhere childrens’
safety is concerned is last area to skimp, so before you buy anything, collect imformation on the strength and saftey of the play equipment you’re considering. Check for anything that could pinch, catch, or cut. Chain can rust, treated wood contains arsenic that can come off on the hands (this type of wood
is best avoided altogther), and any wood other than teak can give splinters and should be well-sanded. Any tall equipment, such as swingsets or slides, which might fall over, should be firmly secured to the ground. Plastic play equipment is the safest and easiest to maintain, but because it doesn’t last long, it’s best for younger ones who’ll grow out of it quickly.
[See BLI’s section on Garden Play Equipment for more
information on safety and design.]
What kid wouldn’t want a house of their own? Playhouses can be the highlight of
playtime and are a great nudge for the imagination. As a benefit to parents, a playhouse can also be used as storage once the kids grow out of it and a nice enough playhouse will also increase the property value.
[See BLI’s section on Outdoor Playhouses for more
It goes with out saying that the sharp and the poisonous are out. Holly is a beautiful shrub only until little Mary runs face-first into it or little Joey decides to taste the berries. But with so many flowers and herbs that are not only non-poisonous but actually edible, safe plant choice is relatively simple. Fruit-bearing shrubs that require little maintanence are ideal for families. Thankfully, raspberry and blueberry bushes will grow in most climates. Trees should be strong enough to withstand climbing, so any tree with weak limbs should be pruned. For a stay-up-late treat, select a few night blooming
flowers. Fuzzy, touchable plants also go over well, especially with younger
[See BLI’s Night Garden and Touch Garden.]
The garden as teacher
A vegetable or flower patch is a lesson not only in gardening, but in patience and
persistance. It also requires less commitment than a pet, should your kids lose interest in it and bequeath it to you. Native wildlife, be they birds, deer, or earthworms can provide hands-on biology lessons that are more relevant than any text book pictures.
[See BLI’s section on Native bird gardens, Butterfly gardens, and Backyard fish ponds for more ideas.] For small children in areas without poisonous animals, the garden also is a good place to learn not to be afraid of snakes, spiders, and bats. If you do have poisonous snakes or spiders in your area, do what you can to eliminate possible hiding places such as brush piles, and make sure your children know which animals or insects aren’t okay to handle, as well as which ones are.
Garden decor can be a family project, whether you look through the gardening catalogs together or create hand-made decor. Projects like painted wooden or stone signs, windchimes (from wood or seashells), and personalized
walkway stones let the young ones feel involved in the care of the garden and can also save Mom and Dad some money.
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