Child-friendly garden design

Children should be encouraged outdoors and the garden can be a safe and educational place for them to play.

If the children are young, then there are several safety considerations to make when planning your garden.

Tools should be safely housed in a shed and not left lying around a path.  Children can gravitate towards sheds, seeing them as a ready-made den, so take care.  It is best to lock the shed as there are so many tools that are potentially dangerous and, if you have the resources, provide a separate wendy house in which to play.

Garden chemicals should also be stored with care as curious little people like to investigate colourful containers.

Do you have dangerous plants in your garden?  Some are poisonous, such as foxgloves, yew and laburnum, whilst others can have sharp thorns or spikes or even stings, such as nettles.  Take care to warn the children or tie spiky plants back.

Ponds have always been a no-no as far as young children are concerned.  Have them fenced or netted off and always stay with your children in the garden until they are old enough to be trusted on their own with the pond.  In summer paddling pools are just the same as a temporary pond and a cover is the safest bet.  If you want to install a safe water feature, try a fountain or a very shallow recirculating spring or stream.

Swings and climbing frames provide great exercise and fun for children but also have their health and safety features.  Each year many accidents occur with garden toys such as these that could be prevented with a few safety features such as grass or bark chippings.

Sandpits should be protected with a cover to avoid contamination with cat faeces which is toxic.

Having an area of your garden where your children can do their own planting is great encouragement for them to go out into the garden regularly, and to learn all about growing.  They will love choosing and planting their own seeds and bulbs.  The delight in watching a sunflower shoot up way above their (and your) heads is wonderful to behold as is the satisfaction at eating their own home-grown freshly picked produce.

A bird table or feeder that the children can add seeds or nuts to can also be a great source of pleasure.

Don’t forget to add a sitting area if you have the space so that you and they can spend days or evenings admiring the beauty of your handiwork.

And finally, keep them safely in with a secure garden gate, particularly if they are very young. a website full of great ideas for using the garden to play and learn with children.

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