A paradise for children – How to create a child friendly garden
Many parents put lots of thought into how to design their child’s room, because they want to create a nurturing environment, that helps the child to feel safe, calm and balanced and is encouraging for the child’s exploration sense and creativity. So they carefully pick out a color for the walls, the curtains, the carpet and try to choose furniture that is not only functional but also creates a harmonic combination.
However, when it comes to yards and gardens, many families choose some outdoor furniture and toys (like a trampoline) to place somewhere functional, but forget that they are missing the true potential of outdoor spaces: To create a beautiful harmonic place, that is beneficial for the development of their kids just as well as for the well being of the whole family.
As it matters what colors, textures and shapes I choose for my child’s room, it matters what colors, textures, shapes and even smells and play opportunities I provide outdoors, just that (in my personal opinion) nature provides so many more inspiring possibilities. I know, creating a beautiful garden is a lot of hard work but it is worth the effort.
When we plan a house, we plan different rooms for different purposes. With walls and furniture we define different functions for those areas. A garden, even if it is a smaller yard, will benefit from such a planning approach as well.
I cannot tell you what plants to use because that depends on where you live and what will grow there. However, I can give some ideas of what to consider:
When you try to decide on a structure for your yard, you should – just like when planning a house – ask yourself the following questions:
Where will be the space for retreat? Where and how do you want get comfy and relax? Not just the adults, but also the kids thrive of beautiful retreats that help them to relax and calm down.
Where do you want to sit together as a family and eat and maybe even cook outside?
Where can your kids do (loud and) active play? What kind of active play opportunities do you want to provide?
Where and how can you provide opportunities for your kids for creativity and to leave their own traces and shape their environment?
How can you include decorative aspects (just like you would decorate your home) to make a stay in your yard a beautiful, harmonic experience?
Use plants wisely!
Plants can be the backbone for the structures you want to create. It is contraproductive to see plants for the space they are using instead of their potential. Plants can fulfill many purposes in your garden.
With the help of plants you can create different little “rooms” and areas in your garden. Some people believe that a place looks smaller when you create different areas. However, it’s the contrary. If your eye cannot take in the whole area at once, the space appears much bigger. Plants, like bushes, can be used like a wall to create romantic hidden away spaces and are much more beautiful than just walls that protect you from neighbors´ view. You can also use bushes to break the wind so your sitting area becomes less drafty.
Don’t be afraid of trees. Some people believe that they can only plant a small tree because they have a small garden. However, the best tree for a small space is a tall tree, that grows tall enough to sit underneath, because you do not loose any space with it.
Use plants for shade. Personally I really like to create shade with bushes and trees that loose their leaves in winter time, because in the cold time of the year, I am happy for any sun I can get, but in the summer it will provide all the shade we need.
Use plants to provide play opportunities. For my kids the best places to play hide and seek are under and behind bushes. In bushes they built forts and their own little hideaways and can role play for hours. Plant bushes that survive when the kids cut some branches for carving or other creative wood works. Great “child” resilient bushes for us are hazelnut bushes and wild rosebushes that grow quick and create little “caves” underneath.
Grow flowers the kids can pick and play with. Your lawn does not have to be perfect green grass. Daisies, dandelions, shamrock, violets and forget-me-nots are much more interesting and inspiring for kids that just grass.
Personally, I believe that a beautiful environment has a positive influence on our mental health and stability. Use plants which shapes, textures, smells, and colors you like to make your garden beautiful. Plan different beautiful layers and levels. What decorative part do you want on ground level, what that could be knee high, what above your head? In my garden we have different areas of different beauty character. We have cultivated flowerbeds next to our porch with good smelling roses, lavender, sage and many smaller flowers as well. But we also have diverse natural areas in the meadow around the bushes and trees with flowers. We have trees that have shapes we find beautiful and many have beautiful blossoms and fruits (apple-, pear-, plumtrees).
I think those elements are the bases a good child friendly garden should cover. If you have more space and want to provide more play opportunities, there are so many things you could do. Of course treehouses and trampolines are fun. Ask you kids, I am sure they will come up with great play ideas for your yard. However I believe a natural and beautifully structured garden is much more important than a play furniture we put in it. In a well structured natural environment, my kids can play all day. While play structures I put inside like a furniture can get boring after a while.
Children should have the opportunity to make playful experiences with all four elements: fire, water, earth and air.
Read in my next post, how we have included those four elements in our garden.