Six month old Patrick, (son of Tim who is part of the Ocean Road Landscaping team), is clearly jumping out of his skin as he crawls all over his own nice new lawn. Letting kids in the garden play and explore is a wonderful thing to do.

If you spend time with kids in the garden, you’ve probably noticed how relaxed they are when they’re outdoors. Unsettled babies will relax if you pop them into a pram and head out for a walk, and a toddler in the park will begin playing almost as their feet hit the grass. But it’s also a given that children occupy a world that’s full of the lure of screen devices, so to balance that, we instinctively want our children to be outside, initiating their own play as much as possible. But how best to go about it?

My experience with my own kids in the garden has convinced me that introducing them as early as possible is a good idea. So even if your child isn’t yet walking, now is the time to have a bit of a think about your outdoor space at home, and about how it might work better with a few tweaks.

  1. Look for somewhere to create a clean, shady, sheltered spot for young children to be able to play. It should be somewhere where you can keep an eye on things but also a little distance away so that they can enjoy the freedom to explore and take on some safe challenges.
  2. A small healthy green lawn is a great thing to have especially when children are very little: crawlers can crawl all over it; early walkers have a soft surface on which to fall. It will be worth the effort and small amount of water a patch of grass will take. And don’t worry if your garden doesn’t have an ideal area to grow a lush lawn as you can always put in some synthetic grass as a mobile option.
  3. As your children grow start to introduce things like sand and pebbles to play with and especially water. You could make them available as a sand pit set in an area mulched with smooth river rocks: then add water on a warm day via a trickling hose into a shallow dish. Always check to make sure it’s a safe environment then give them some freedom to explore and interact with the materials in their own way.
  4. Plants are also a big part of the tactile experience. Plant something irresistible to touch like the vivid green Cushion Plant (Scleranthus biflorus) or the soft Woolly Bush (Adenanthos sericeus). Obviously avoid any plants that are spikey or poisonous.
  5. As your children grow older, toys and games are a good way to add some added dimension to their play. Set up a tepee on the lawn, or an umbrella and some beach towels to make a cubby. Cardboard boxes make great cars, boats or shop counters. Keep it all fresh by rotating everything, and when you need to pack up at the end of the day, a water-tight bin or large plastic tub kept near the back door is a good place to store the ‘outdoor’ toys.
  6. At the right age, let your children plant something. Allowing a young person to plant and nurture a large tub of sunflowers can leave a life-time of gardening memories in one short season. It did for me.

So all in all, it’s about making good use of the space you have and making minor modifications without spending too much money. Your aim is to have a relaxing space outdoors where you can be while your kids in the garden outside are playing.

kids in the garden

Written by Peter Shaw, together with his team at Ocean Road Landscaping, creates beautiful, environmentally friendly gardens on the Great Ocean Road, Surf Coast, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula.

Phone: 1300 61 62 63  or  5263 3133 or use our Contact Us page

If you would like to read more about kids in the garden, check out our other blog child-friendly-landscape and child-friendly-garden