Planning the perfect landscape design for your property can certainly be a challenge. You have many aspects to consider and a great many choices of materials and designs to choose from. Designing a landscape for yourself is challenging enough, but what if you have children? How can you create a child friendly yard?
This article will explore some of the do’s and don’ts when designing a child-friendly landscape.
Common Parental Questions:
- Will the place be safe enough for them to play in?
- What elements should I add to the property to make it more child-friendly?
- Is it okay to have a water feature?
- What if we have a pool or pond in our yard?
- Do we need to fence the property?
- Are those steps too dangerous?
Kids will be Kids
Children seem to have boundless amounts of energy to run and play. It is in a parent’s best interest to give their kids a safe area where they can burn off some of this excess energy. Creating a safe landscape or modifying your landscape to make it kid-friendly doesn’t need to be a huge project.
Most landscapes are designed around the needs of the adults and aesthetic appeal. There is no reason that we can’t have an aesthetically appealing landscape with excellent curb appeal and have it be child-friendly at the same time.
Consider the Age of Your Children
Your children’s needs will change with age, and at some point, they will be choosing friends and activities away from your yard, but while they are young, it is important to make your yard enjoyable for them.
When your children are toddlers and younger, you will likely be in the yard with them, watching them explore and guiding them to keep them safe. It would be great to have a nice level lawn area with lush soft grass for them to play and explore. You will want to be out there with them, so having this lush lawn area just outside the kitchen window where you can keep an eye on them if you need to run into the house is a great idea.
Also, having a nice comfortable sitting area in this play area with soft furniture is an excellent idea so that you can sit and read a book while they play, or maybe they can crawl up onto the lounge chair for a quick afternoon nap in the yard.
It is also nice to have sunny spots as well as shaded areas where they can get out of the sun. Planting a shade tree might be just the answer.
When they are toddlers, it is nice not to worry about head and face injuries. Because toddlers tend to fall quite often, it is nice to have space where they can run around and fall without causing serious injuries. Concrete, brick, rocks, and sharp-cornered furniture or fire pits are probably not what you need for a toddler’s play area outside. Creating a nice play area full of soft grasses and plants will allow for plenty of safe running and falling without a lot of bleeding and crying. If this area could be somewhat enclosed with a border of shrubs or flowers, the kids will be more likely to stay within sight and out of trouble.
While a bit more problematic as far as keeping a toddler clean, a sandbox is a great place for little kids to spend hours digging, building, and playing in the sand. Sandboxes need not be a big undertaking. While not particularly attractive to adults, a mounded pile of sand in the yard would be loads of fun for kids. Most people try to tuck the sandbox into a garden corner, near a playset, or under a tree to provide a bit of shade. Sunscreen and sand don’t mix really well. The sand can be bordered with logs or small rocks to help delineate it.
A Bit Older
As they get older and start to explore the property, it is up to you to make sure that they still stay relatively safe. By this time, I hope you have explored the yard and any neighboring hazards with them and pointed out the potential danger areas. As they are developing, it is relatively easy to teach them about danger. Just like they need to know not to touch a hot stove, they need to know not to jump into a swimming pool or pond without supervision.
Many parents feel that a fenced backyard is the ultimate solution. I don’t disagree that having set boundaries where the kids know not to go without telling you is a great idea. This can often be accomplished with rock walls or hedges and garden beds, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a fence. “Kids, stay in the yard” should be straightforward and easy to understand, so some type of border or delineation will be helpful.
How yards are bordered or delineated will often depend on your location and neighbors. As the children grow, they are sure to make friends in the neighborhood. With so many backyards connecting to each other, children’s play spanning several neighboring back yards is common.
Having an area that is a bit more wild and unkept might be a real plus for these young explorers. A place protected by trees and tall grasses can feel a bit like being in the forest. They can feel like they are out of parent’s grasp while still being in the yard.
Creating a semi-private area in the yard where the older kids can hang out that isn’t quite as supervised will be appreciated. Older kids love having a sense of their own privacy and independence.
Create a Play Area
There is no shortage of playsets and jungle-gym-type equipment available for the homeowner. Having a designated area for the kids to climb and hang and get physical might keep them from using your living room for these activities.
There are many playsets that can be purchased in pieces and assembled at home, or you could always design and build one with the kids to give them a sense of accomplishment and a lesson in carpentry.
But, if you aren’t the do-it-yourself kind of family, many companies will custom build and install a fantastic play structure in your yard with slides, climbing walls, rope swings, playhouses, etc.
Giving your kids a place to climb and explore also encourages physical fitness. With the thousands of shows and video games available to today’s generation of kids, it is excellent for them to be introduced to physical activity at a young age.
A trampoline can also be added to the play area. Who doesn’t remember the excitement of jumping and flipping around on a trampoline? Today you have many different types and styles of trampoline and are sure to find one that will suit your yard. Don’t forget to consider installing one with a safety enclosure to prevent injuries.
Pools and Water
If the family wants to install a pool or water feature, it is important to consider safety. Pools and water features of any type can be hazardous to children who have not been introduced to them by their parents.
You must set strict household rules about how and when it gets used if you have either. For the pool in a neighborhood backyard, a fenced enclosure and safety cover are always a good idea. If you are creating a pond, be sure that it has easily sloped or stepped sides so that non-swimmers could easily walk out if they ended up finding themselves in your pond.
If the property has big and sturdy trees, you can put them to good use by building a treehouse. The older kids will love it, and even the adults who are young at heart will enjoy reminiscing the memories of their own tree houses when they were little.
Large trees can also be a great place to install a tree swing or hammock. There is something soothing about swinging, in the shade of a big old tree in the yard has long been a favorite kids activity.
Create a Vegetable Garden
Kids young and old love to imitate their parents. TheThe little ones love “helping,” and the older ones, while they tend to fight it at first, can get a great sense of accomplishment through gardening.
If you are an avid gardener and have had veggie gardens in the past, then you know enough to guide your kids into the hobby. If this is your first garden, learn with the kids and keep it simple and stress-free. Find a sunny spot in your yard, create the bed, and plant.
Keep it Enjoyable
Keep the rows wide and the plants few. Seeds are cheap, so have the kids help you pick a fun assortment and get them in the ground. The secret to this is to keep it easy. If you pressure yourself for results and perfection, it can be stressful for you and the kids. If you keep it light and fun, you can have a great time doing it, build some great memories, and maybe even eat a dirty carrot or two together.
Give them Space
If having them make a mess of your well-established garden is too much, consider giving them a space of their own to plant. There is something magical for young and old about planting tiny little seeds and watching them grow into plants. Plant some fun stuff like sunflowers, gourds, and pumpkins. Plant some tasty stuff that they can eat right from the garden, like strawberries, cucumbers, and peas. They will likely learn a thing or two about what rabbits like to eat also.
Some of the many things you can plant in your kid’s mini-garden are cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and even watermelon and strawberries. You should also consider planting the smaller versions of the produce they like to make it easier for them to pick up and carry once the harvest season comes. Pulling up baby carrots from the ground will be a fun experience for your little ones. It will warm your heart seeing their face light up with the thrill of knowing that their garden is thriving.
Kids love to get their hands dirty, so the easy, fun parts like tilling, planting, and harvesting will be their favorites. The challenging part is the weeding for both kids and adults. The long hours in the garden pulling weeds can be boring for the young ones, so don’t be overly critical about the weeds. Keep it light.
Back to Your Roots
Gardening can bring kids back to their roots (quite literally); many of our ancestors grew food of one sort or another, and it is an experience that everyone should have at some point in their life. Gardening can teach them responsibility and help them understand how the environment around us works. They will learn not only to care for their plants but also to care for everything else that is alive and thriving.
Being out in the garden working together is a great, low-stress time to talk about our environment, sustainability, the dangers of chemicals, etc., to make them more aware of our earth as they grow up. It can also be a great time to hang out and talk about friends or activities that they are enjoying away from the family.
Teaching them how and allowing them the opportunity to grow their own food may well be one of their fondest memories of their time with you as they get older. Teaching them where our food comes from and how they can grow their own will be helpful knowledge that will last a lifetime.
Create a Family Area for Rest and Retreat
By creating comfortable outdoor living spaces, you will be encouraging your children and your entire family to enjoy time outdoors. Whether it’s a simple patio and picnic table or an outdoor kitchen and living room, a comfy place to hang out and unplug can be just what the doctor ordered for those nice weekends of rest and relaxation.
Making your backyard fun and child-friendly will encourage your kids to spend more time outside. Having fun activities and comfortable areas where kids can gather outside might just make your yard the go-to place in the neighborhood.
Sure, it will mean you will be providing more snacks, and you will be likely to have more noise and activity in your yard, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing where your kids and their friends are hanging out will be well worth the extra effort.