Transform Your Backyard So Your Kids Love Spending Time in it
When I was a kid growing up in country NSW, I would head out with my friends to explore the native bush. We’d climb trees, avoid cow pats and catch tadpoles. Good times!
Before becoming a mum I was certain that my kids would have the same ‘free range’ experience of childhood that I did. Every waking minute was spent outdoors and watching TV was limited to an after dinner treat.
Then I grew up, bought a house in an Adelaide suburbia, and started my own business! Life was busy and when my daughter arrived it wasn’t long before The Wiggles began to help me get things done.
Hello Mum guilt.
When my daughter turned 2, I knew needed to find a way to connect her to nature without needing to pack her up and head out to a park or playground.
So I gave my ‘grown up’ garden a makeover for kids.
Now that I’ve transformed our backyard for how kids play and explore, she spends hours playing outside, sometimes with very little or even no supervision from me if I need to get a few things done (cue the gasps!!).
HERE ARE MY Top 5 Tips for how you can achieve this in YOUR own garden.
1. Safety First
Everyone has different views about safety so it’s important to end up with a garden that you personally feel is safe. A few basics include:
- No water – not even a deep bucket, if it can be accessed unsupervised. Water play is awesome but it needs to be something that is brought out each time it’s used.
- Fencing – to restrict access to the road or unwanted people entering in. But it needn’t be a dominating fence, it could be a solid hedge, a decorative gate or a low wall.
- Soft landings – consider lawn or organic mulch where they climb rather than paving or concrete.
- Hazards – this is particularly important for babies and toddlers who learn through mouthing so ensure all chemicals, fertilisers and equipment such as lawn mowers are locked away. Also some garden plants can present a hazard and so make sure you check which ones can.
That’s all the serious stuff out of the way…now the fun part.
2. Spend Time on the Design
Firstly, keep in mind what you like doing outside so you also enjoy spending time there when you makeover your garden for your kids.
Getting the garden structure right from the start will mean that you can make small changes as your kids grow, without necessarily having to start over every few years.
Areas of hardscape such as paving or decking and also irrigation are best installed by a professional so it’s safe and long lasting.
Understanding the aspect of your garden will ensure you don’t plant something in a full sun spot that’s not hardy to Adelaide’s hot and dry summers.
Enhance the sensory benefit of your garden by choosing plants with textured foliage or fragrant flowers and consider a barefoot sensory path instead of traditional paving.
If you’re a little out of your comfort zone with the design, consider involving a professional designer. Obtaining advice initially will save you in the long run, and most companies will offer consultation for DIY.
3. Natural is best
I truly believe natural gardens work best for kids and the benefits are endless.
They can test their capabilities, better regulate their emotions and gain self-confidence, stimulate their senses and learn about nature and how to care for it.
A natural garden also changes constantly.
A tree that provides shade for you and your baby to sit under, could be a great climbing space for them down the track.
While they do have their place, plastic play equipment and toys are expensive and children outgrow them fairly quickly, but they never outgrow a tree!
4. Make it Age Appropriate
The age of your kids will determine what elements you could incorporate in your garden when you give it a makeover. Here are some suggestions to start.
Babies and Toddlers:
- Sensory fun – Stimulate their senses and build immunity by incorporating areas for supervised mud, water and sand play.
- Space to stop – Include places to eat or have space for tummy time such as an area of grass.
- Play and explore – Have spots to crawl safely with different levels and ledges will challenge their balance and mobility.
- Fun and games – Create Peek-a-boo spaces or hiding spaces for fun and learning.
Play now becomes more imaginative and social.
- Loose parts – unlike traditional toys, loose parts such as sticks and shells have unlimited flexibility for play. A stick can be a wand, and a shell a magical treasure.
- Secret places – this can be a cubby house or a shrub they can climb in to play freely.
- Creations stations – an area for creativity and imagination such as an outdoor kitchen or concert stage.
- Places to climb and swing – this can be a tree stump, a large rock or a swing set.
- Things to grow – such as flower seeds, vegetable and herb seedlings. Growing vegetables will show the ‘farm to plate’ connection and can increase engagement in the kitchen.
High School age
For older children, a garden is more about activities, socialisation and a space to reduce stress or recharge.
- Give them space – Give them their own area of the garden for the things that interests them.
- Grow food – Teenagers can be bottomless pits when it comes to food. Teaching them how to grow their own food can give them an appreciation for the work that goes into providing it to them. You don’t need a huge area and you could even use a large pot.
- Revamp the cubby house – Valuable assets in the garden such as a cubby house can be brought to life by transforming it into a teenagers’ retreat or an outdoor study area.
- Areas to eat and drink – Family meal areas outside can be obtained by reducing an area of grass to include a paved eating area, fire pit, or simply adding a bench under a tree.
- Involve them in decisions – Allowing your young adults to help you decide what the garden includes creates ownership. You could also involve them in its upkeep as an opportunity to earn pocket money.
5. Reap the rewards
Now your makeover for kids is complete, your will garden will be transformed into an individual space that you and your kids love spending in.
So now it’s time to spend quality time with your kids and enjoy seeing them play, learn and connect with the natural world right outside your door…winning!
Connect with Stacee:
Inside Out Makeovers & Maintenance
Stacee Krylov moved to Adelaide in 2005 from NSW to begin her career as a horticulturalist. Since 2011, Stacee has been operating Inside Out Makeovers & Maintenance, with her husband, Ben. They offer all landscaping services such as paving, planting, fencing, decking, irrigation, screening and lawn installation. They also offer regular home and garden care, horticultural advice and consultation for DIY.
Stacee is really passionate about utilising her skills and knowledge to help connect children with nature and showing how being outdoors can help them (and their parent/s or carer/s) develop healthfully. The birth of her daughter three years ago increased her drive for this significantly and has seen her create an exciting new business, Gardens For Kids.