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Kids play areas by Secret Gardens

TIME TO READ: 3m 30s

We ask the experts for their tips on designing a garden for little people, that the adults can still enjoy.

Designing an outdoor space with kids in mind is more than just rolling out a patch of lawn, especially if you want it to be a place for the gown ups to enjoy too. We get the advice of a few experts and find out some family friendly garden must-haves. Here’s what they have to say:

Plan a garden the kids love to explore

Rob Finnie of Secret Gardens says parents should consider incorporating level changes within the landscape and to provide a space for the kids to climb and explore.

“As a general rule, three steps is a comfortable sitting height for adults, so a “step” design can be useful”. 

Discrete side passages can be designed with ramps in mind using concrete, stone or decking suggests Rob. This becomes a great slope for toy car races, entertaining the kids for hours.

Lawn is always a practical soft surface for kids play, if the space allows, says Rob. Shade is very important and can be achieved through the use of motorised fabric awnings or clever placement of trees.

For kids play, Rob says blackboards are fun and good when you’re short on space as they’re easily incorporated onto walls. Likewise, climbing holds are great for the adventurous ones, just not too high! Trampolines are always a winner, if you have the space, and a hanging chair if you have a mature tree with suitable branching is a great element.

When planning for your family-friendly garden Rob adds, it’s important not to make it a space just for kids, but to consider the needs of the parents too.

“If we design comfortable destination spots for Mum and Dad, the kids are more likely to hang outside”.

Just remember, your kids will grow up, so a separate destination zone that can accommodate them when they get older can be just as important, advises Rob.

Let the kids pick fruit and vegetables out of the dirt

Based on personal experience, Michael Cooke of Michael Cooke Garden Designs says if you design a garden that has a warm and comfortable vibe, the kids will want to spend time in it. And they’ll want to enjoy it with you.

Michael never made major changes to his outdoor space for the benefit of his son, nor did he adapt the way he worked on the garden. The result? An interesting garden that captivated his son’s imagination throughout his childhood.

“If I worked outside he was always there, always happy being with me – maybe he was climbing a tree or digging a hole.”

Michael involved his son in the garden work from a young age. Slung on his back or in the front, Michael would prune or walk around the garden, going about his usual activities and jobs.

Place emphasis on making the garden an interesting place to be in, says Michael. Have some shade, think about kids’ play with a treehouse, swings or a sandpit under a big tree.

Michael suggests planting fruit and veggies, allowing for the kids to pick and eat directly from the tree or get their hands dirty and dig them out of the ground.

Allow for flexibility

Roy Grahram of Joanne Green says while their design team focuses on responding to the individual client’s needs, flexibility is the key when designing a family garden.

“Spaces need to be flexible to cater for multiple uses such as play, entertaining and passive seating to supervise the kids, just to name a few.”

While this is not always possible says Roy, the outdoor space needs to be user friendly to allow for freedom of movement, and be simple to maintain. Safety for the kids would be paramount too, he adds.

“Using the space efficiently is the main goal – a very challenging one at that, in most cases!”

When asked what Roy’s must-have is in a garden for little people, he says a soft, green lawn for play would have to be close to the top of his list.

Areas to explore that create interest is also important. This could include a veggie plot or bush or rock gardens.  A climbing structure would be a great addition too, Roy adds. Obviously, size will great dictate what can and can’t be added into a garden.

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