10 tips for creating a child-friendly garden

Check out these top tips to get your kids unplugged from indoor life and engaged with nature in your own backyard 


10 tips for creating a child-friendly garden

It’s every parent’s dilemma. How do you lure the kids outside into the fresh air away from their electronic gadgets without having to turn the entire garden into a playground? Age has a lot to do with it. Young children like to be near their parents when they play, older kids want their own space. Zoning play areas can be helpful and it’s possible to reduce the impact of play equipment with screening and other devices. To make your garden more kid-friendly check out our list of top 10 tips.

1 In the zone

Grouping activities into different zones is one of the best ways to organise a garden and make it work for everyone – adults and children. Rather than spreading bulky equipment such as trampolines, swings, slides and playhouses around the garden, they’ll take less space if they’re in one zone. It also makes it much easier to supervise play. Partially screen the area and cover the ground beneath play equipment with bark or rubber matting.

2 Future proof

Choose play equipment that can be converted to another use when the children grow up. A sandpit can later become a pond or a fire pit, for instance. Hang a swing that can be easily dismantled from a tree or pergola, or build a playhouse that you can eventually turn into a potting shed or studio. Blackboards and climbing walls can be attached to fences or retaining walls and dismantled later.

3 Family combo

When space is tight combine kids’ areas with another informal space such as the vegetable garden. Turn a raised bed into a sandpit and make another one a toddler’s vege patch for peas, sunflowers and other easy-to-grow crops. Help them build a scarecrow to protect their patch.

4 Play house

Buy or build a hut or hideaway for older children, somewhere they can hang out with their friends away from the grown-ups. If there is an existing tree large enough, why not make them a tree-house? Save money by using recycled materials and let the kids help with building and painting.

5 Create relaxed areas

Manicured gardens are no fun for children. Clipped hedges and hard surfaces are fine for adults but is there also space for a more relaxed children’s area? You could plant tough, easy-care trees and shrubs and leave the grass a little longer so they can play freely without worrying about damaging plants.

6 Connect to nature

If the kids don’t get out into the natural world very often why not devote a corner of the garden to wildlife? With the right planting you can attract bees, butterflies and birds to your garden. Use old branches and unwanted timber to make a “hotel” for insects (visit Add a shallow pond (covered with wire netting if small children are around) and frogs, dragonflies and other wildlife might even turn up.

7 Make tracks

A hard surface is essential for kids to ride bikes, scooters and skateboards or for pushing prams. In areas like Auckland with very wet winters this is a must. Ideally, the paved areas should form a loop.

8 Soft option

There’s nothing like lying about on soft grass to bring out the child in anyone. For young ones it’s an essential part of being a kid. The more lawn area you can create the more they will run around, play ball games, chase the dog, or just lie on their backs and stare at the clouds.

9 Sun screen

Little ones have sensitive skin so make sure sandpits, paddling pools and other play areas are protected from the sun. Position play areas under trees or use a shade sail, awning or umbrella.

10 Shop around

If the budget is tight, trampolines, sandpits, paddling pools, swing sets and playhouses can often be found on auction sites or the ‘For Sale’ columns in newspapers in good condition and for a reasonable price. Swings can also be made from recycled tyres while see-saws can be made from recycled timber.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Elouise Van Riet-Gray/

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