Published : 20 January 2016

Whether it's an inner city courtyard or acres of grass and trees, kids love gardens. And being outside is a whole lot healthier than playing X-Box all day! Give a child a garden and their imagination will run riot. And getting them to help you do things in the garden is a brilliant way of getting them inspired.

But creating a child-friendly garden does require some thought - especially if we are talking about young children. The age of your children will affect plant choices, fencing, whether or not you include a pond, and so on.


Size isn't everything

If you live in a rural location with a large garden it's pretty easy to keep the kids entertained. A smaller block, or a courtyard garden, is more of a challenge, but not impossible.

If you are working with a small area, don't be tempted to simply fill it up with play equipment. A courtyard is for all the family, and guests, to enjoy, and they don't want to constantly be tripping over the trampoline!

A great way of using a small space and still engaging a young mind is to create a mini edible garden, using containers, raised beds, and dwarf fruit trees.


In the shade

This is a very important aspect in any garden. Whether you create it by using a shade sail or trees, there need to be cool, shady spots for kids to play.  You can even use a large parasol to shade, say, a sandpit. A good shade sail can block up to 90% of the sun's UV rays, which is reassuring for parents, and provides cool comfort for them, too.


A place for everything

With young children about it's important to have some form of secure storage for garden tools and chemicals - for obvious reasons. Sheds come in all shapes and sizes these days, so there are even ones for tiny yards.

While you're at it, look for innovative ways to store garden toys and games. Perhaps a wooden trunk, which can then double as a comfy garden seat with a pretty cushion on top.

And talking of storage, if you have water tanks for garden use, make sure they have secure lids fitted to avoid the temptation of climbing in.


Perfect plants

When designing gardens for kids it's important  to choose non-toxic plants, and 'safe' plants - ie try and avoid things like cactus or thorny rose bushes! Always check the plant label for information on toxicity, or ask for advice where you buy the plant. Unless edible, try and avoid plants with tempting little berries.

Herbs are a great choice - not only are they fun to grow, and useful, but they are mostly harmless if eaten.

While not a safety issue, if you're busy with the kids most of the time, why not consider low maintenance, easy-care plants to take the pressure off yourself.


Pond Life

This is a tricky one. Generally, it is advised NOT to install a pond if you have small children, and, if you already have one in situ, empty out the water and make it into a sandpit. However, probably installed, maintained and supervised, a garden pond is not only a great source of fun for a child, but educational, too, if you add fish and water plants.

Talking about water, it goes without saying that if you have a swimming pool in your yard, it must be properly fenced and hold a valid pool certificate. And remember, pool gates are meant to swing shut for safety - don't prop them open!


Keeping watch

Your children's play area should be visible from the house, unless you plan to constantly be outside monitoring them. If you have the space, you may consider fencing off a section as a play area, to keep them in one place.


Concrete, gravel and knees

Have a think about whether or not you want to include a paved area for sitting and/or scooters, bikes etc. It makes sense but be prepared for a few cut knees. Pavers or concrete may be a better often than gravel with young children, and if you've ever fallen on gravel, you'll know why!