Chalkboards in the garden

Childrens’ gardens and outdoor play, not forgetting adults!

Do you have children and want your garden to tempt them outdoors? Perhaps include exciting play options that aren't just off-the-shelf? Not prepared to hand over the garden 100%? There are a number of creative ways to cater to both adults and children alike without too much of a compromise and certainly no garish plastic. Whether your garden is extensive or on the small side there are a number of unusual and interesting ways to appeal to tiny tots and tumbling ten year olds. Read on for 5 tips for enjoying a child-friendly garden:

Adult-free retreat:

Children sometimes want to have a space to call their own and they will often seek-out their own private hidey-holes that could be as simple as finding a space amongst some shrubs or behind a hedge.  Its easy enough to make temporary features that can be utilised in good weather.  This could be a bunch of cardboard boxes that becomes a fortress or erecting a tent or teepee in the garden.  You may choose to nurture your child's inner hobbit however with this playhouse by Muddy Putty with its curved roof and circular door, a perfect little space to really let the imagination run-free.  Available in two sizes the largest measuring 2.5m in width it's large enough for adults to climb into.  It also ticks the boxes where sustainability is concerned. It uses British softwood in its construction and so the carbon footprint will be relatively low.  It comes as a easy to erect flat pack and so you can feel proud in the knowledge that you've helped to create a fab plays space for your child. The use of natural materials mean it should compliment a garden setting but by planting around within textuaral plants such as ornamental grasses and perhaps positioning boulders around it you could really create your own shire setting.

Creativity & Interactivity:

Chalkboards are a great way for children to express their artistic side. In the garden a chalkboard can be attached to a fence or wall, the board can be constructed from durable marine ply and then painted with chalkboard paint. Alternatively you could paint a section of wall to create an out-sized canvas. Slate paving can double-up as a surface for scribbles; sawn slate paving has a smooth surface and has the added benefit of feeling great barefoot.  For those small ones intrigued by all things of a wriggly persuasion, keep them entertained with a beastie and bug hunt. Our gardens are as much about fauna as they are flora and you can encourage interest in this by giving children the mission to find and identify your garden's creatures.  An old favourite of mine was making perfume from scented petals and foliage.  Plants such as lavender and roses are ideal for this and devising different concoctions.

Cultivation:

Perfect for beginner garderners with short attention spans, sunflowers seeds are sown in a matter of minutes.  Then the fun comes from charting the weekly progress of your very own sunflower.  Give your children their own patch to experiment with, they can create their own mini garden in a box or container, giving them the flexibility to re-invent again and again.

Appeal to the senses with textural, scented, colourful or edible plants.  Easy to grow edibles include herbs such as mint, thyme and oregano, for fruit and vegetables strawberries, radishes and salad leaves are reliable.  For something soft to the touch try lamb's ears or an ornamental grass such as Pennisetum.  For both colour and scent Sweet peas are ideal.

Shared space:

Indulge your child-like side with something both you and your children can enjoy together. Whether it be an attractive swing that hangs gracefully from a tree or a hammock you can both climb into. Hammocks come in all shapes, sizes and materials, some robust enough to support two adults and can be purchased with a stand or hung between trees or perhaps posts or sleepers set into the ground.

Take that board game outside and supersize it. Dominoes, Connect Four and Snakes and ladders are amongst the many of games on the market today.  Playing the old favourite games outdoors has the added benefit of more active play and also encourages the less sporty of children, who might not have much interest in scooting and cycling, out into the fresh air.   

Hidden delights:

Your childrens' play things need not be on display at all times.  With some careful planning a range of features can be easily accessible but out of sight when not in use.  A sandpit for instance can be stowed away under decking, a hinged or removable lid providing access.  Kid's got too much bounce?  A sunken trampoline is an innovative way of including a trampoline without something huge dominating your garden and killing the grass beneath.  Screening can also be incorporated into the garden giving children the sense they are hidden from prying adult eyes while said adults can keep a craft eye on them.  Screening can be in the form of both soft or hard landscaping or a combination of the two, whether it be a bamboo hedge, slatted timber screen or planters potted with ornamental grasses.

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