If you’re looking at garden design, you’ll be thinking about how you can create the perfect family garden. An outside space is incredibly important for the whole family. Newborn babies will appreciate the fresh and marvel at flowers, whilst toddlers and young children will want somewhere to expend their energy and enjoy the sunshine or splash in puddles. Older children and teenagers will enjoy the space, whilst adults can appreciate their little slice of nature and use the garden as a space to relax and unwind. Family meals alfresco and barbecues in the summer will bring the whole family together.
But a garden needs to be designed well, with everyone in the family in mind. Think about the space you have – whether you have a tiny courtyard or a sprawling acre – and how to best use it to suit your family. I recommend doing this every year just before the spring, which is the time most people are starting their gardening, planting seeds and looking forward to the year. Over time your garden will evolve, just as your family does! If you don’t feel like you have time to do this, you might want to consider some gardening services, as there are a lot of affordable professionals who’ll be happy to help you on your gardening journey.
I’ve put together 5 tips and ideas to help you create the perfect family garden.
5 Tips to Create the Perfect Family Garden
1. Have separate spaces in the family garden to meet a specific purpose
Family gardens don’t need to become an over-run play area filled with trampolines, balls and a mess left behind by the children. My first tip for creating the perfect family garden is to ensure that there are clearly defined spaces that meet the needs of everyone who will be using it. By all means, have a play area with outdoor toys such as a swing or climbing frame, but don’t let it spill out into the whole garden. You’ll also want a dining area, where you’ll be enjoying the summer nights by eating outside (more on that later!), and perhaps a relaxing area with a bench or swing chair, surrounded by highly scented plants that will let you read a book and relax. Evaluate what your needs are from a garden and then create areas that meet those needs rather than having one chaotic space
To create the perfect family garden, separate it into defined areas that meet your needs such as:
- Dining Area
- Children’s Play Area
- Relaxing Area or Reading Area
- Nature Area
- Fruit & Vegetable Garden
If you’re thinking that sounds overwhelming, consider getting some garden quotes for the work – whether it’s design or maintenance, there are people out there ready to help.
2. Involve the whole family in gardening from seed to table
One of the most exciting things about gardening is being able to watch the transition from a patch of earth to a delicious tomato. Encourage the whole family to get involved in sowing, watering and watching the plants grow. With children, you can make this an educational experience as well as an entertaining one. Keep a chart of how high the tomato plants have grown and compare it to the children’s growth charts! At the end of the season I think it’s really important that the children are involved in picking any edibles, cooking with them and eating them. It gives them a healthy knowledge and appreciation for where food comes from and how much work goes into growing it.
Now maybe you’re sitting there thinking but my garden isn’t big enough, or I don’t know how to grow vegetables, maybe you think you don’t have the time, after all, we’re talking about a family garden here, not an allotment. Who has time for growing vegetables when you’ve got children? But trust me on this – I do not have green fingers, I am not a naturally skilled gardener, but growing something you can eat doesn’t have to be complicated. I’ve already mentioned tomatoes because quite simply, you really can’t go wrong with them. If you don’t have much space you can even buy tomato plants in ready planted grow bags – you just have to water and watch! Strawberry plants can also be contained in planters, so even in a garden which is just gravel or patio, strawberry plants can thrive. If you have a large garden and you’re worried that all this is going to be too much work, you could considering hiring a gardener for a few hours a week.
Other vegetables and fruits which are really easy to grow even in a small family garden include carrots, green beans, lettuce and salad leaves, cucumbers, bell peppers, potatoes, peas, onions, raspberries, blueberries, figs and more. All of these can be grown easily in pots and don’t require complicated monitoring or maintenance.
3. Bring wildlife into the garden
Ponds are amazing places for children to learn about nature and can bring in insects such as dragonflies, water boatmen, frogs, toads and of course fish if your space is suitable. Bird feeders will encourage a massive variety of feathered friends into the garden – and potentially a squirrel or two as well! Depending on the area you live in, I’m sure there are other wildlife you will be able to encourage. Even if you have a small city garden, you can plant flowers to bring in the bees, and set the children to searching for slugs and snails after the rain. You could consider having a small nature area, where stone slabs and wooden debris will attract all manner of creepy crawlies – from spiders, to woodlice, ants and worms. Perhaps not an adult’s idea of fun, but trust me, the kids will love it – and will learn so much along the way.
4. Create a safe play area – but be flexible and willing to change it.
The type of things your children play with in the garden will naturally evolve over time as they grow. I think it’s really important that if you’re going to create the perfect family garden, you be flexible and take your children’s input on board as to what will get them spending the most time outdoors having fun. Try and incorporate education and exercise into the mix as well. The children’s play area needs to be a safe section of the garden, so you’re not worrying about them and it doesn’t need to be full of expensive equipment.
Do you know what my favourite garden activity was as a child? My mother put up a tent in the corner of the garden and I would retreat into there and imagine I was camping in the great wilds! I’d roleplay (which is super important for development) collecting sticks for the fire and foraging for food. That tent was my area of the garden, no adult’s allowed, and I think it really helped with my confidence and feeling of independence as I grew. These days you can get some amazing garden teepees, or perhaps your child is more energetic and would prefer a climbing frame with a climbing wall, garden bowls or perhaps even an outdoor chess set if they’re that way inclined! If you’ve got teenagers who feel they’ve outgrown their toys, perhaps that area could be converted to a hammock or outdoor bean bags for them to chill on with their friends.
To create a safe area, make sure the grass and shrubs you plant around it are durable and won’t get damaged easily and always be aware of what plants and berries are potentially poisonous or can create a skin reaction – as you don’t want those around!
5. Make a Family Dining Area that the whole family can enjoy together
Eating al fresco (that’s Italian for “in the cool” and is used to refer to outside dining) is a summer must-do. In fact we eat outside as a family at least a few times a week throughout most of the year. As long as it’s not raining and the temperature isn’t too cold. Eating outside can be done with a picnic, a refreshing salad, taking your full cooked meal outside to eat, or having a barbecue and doing the cooking outside too. You want a clear space with minimal clutter and a table and chairs that are durable for all weather. A barbecue area to one side will make it perfect! My tip would be to try and have the dining area under some sort of cover – whether this is a gazebo, a purpose built structure or simply having a large parasol. Even in the summer, it’s good to eat in the shade and a protected area will make it more viable to eat outside in late spring and early autumn as well as summer.
Eating together as a family is one of the easiest ways to bond and to learn about your children’s day. By listening to conversation, young children will pick up more words and expand their knowledge, whilst older children can join in or talk about what they did at school. It allows you to focus on your family, giving everyone an opportunity to talk about any concerns, feel appreciated and listened to. Eating in a relaxed outdoor area means dinner is likely to last longer and you can linger with your favourite beverage (white wine please) after the dishes have been cleaned away. I think an outdoor eating area is an absolutely essential part of having the perfect family garden.
If you enjoyed this post you might also like to read:
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- 10 Ways to be a more Eco-Friendly Parent
I hope that these five tips for creating the perfect family garden have helped and given you some ideas. If you have any ideas for a family-friendly children’s garden, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
This is a collaborative post.