The last couple of years under the pandemic have shown us just how important outdoor space is, for our physical and mental wellbeing, and for the good of our families. You need to think about everyone in your family when it comes to your backyard. If you have kids, the garden presents the perfect opportunity to encourage some outdoor play and fresh air, and a chance to sit down yourself, “supervising” with a coffee or something stronger. When it comes to making changes in the backyard to keep your kids entertained, a little creativity goes a long way. Whether you have a huge garden or a compact space, a large budget or a shoestring, there are ideas out there to suit. Here are some fun ideas.
Children may not have the DIY nous or renovation know-how that you do, but they are experts at knowing what they like, and what they don’t. So, when you’re planning your garden, ask them! Their ideas are likely to be fun and creative, and will be a challenge you can take on together. Kids love to have input in projects, and building a garden around their ideas will make them actively want to go out and play, probably in all weather.
Kids love to play in sand, and digging, building and burying are all touch skills that help little ones develop. You can find sandpits in either plastic or wood, and to suit all budgets. If you want a more permanent and hard-wearing sandpit, an interesting idea is to pour concrete in a mold in the ground. You need to add drainage, and if you have older kids you can border it with hardy plants. Oh, and throw some gravel in there for some different textures/play ideas. However you set up your sandpit, make sure that you have a cover to protect it from the elements – and the cats – when you’re not using it.
There is something about having rooms or nooks to hide away in that kids love – think back to your own childhood. Think about your outdoor space as a series of rooms – your garden may have some natural features that work well for this already, such as corners or trees (especially those that provide some “cover” to hide from grown-ups – think weeping willows). Otherwise, rooms can be fashioned from teepees, old tents, wooden structures, or repurposed garden umbrellas.
This is a great way to keep your kids healthy, with exercise and organic food. Growing vegetables is probably an activity for slightly older kids, but if they get into it you’ll have great fun as a family mucking in, as well as putting delicious produce on the table. It will encourage your children to eat their greens too! For younger kids, a sustainable garden doesn’t have to be boring. You can organize treasure hunts, make pictures out of leaves and flowers, and let them play with that one substance that kids love more than any other.. mud!
A ‘mud kitchen’ is great fun, and a way to upcycle your old pots, pans, and utensils. And you could also set up a kids’ garden where they can nurture easy-going crops such as herbs, strawberries, runner beans, or carrots. Supply kid-sized wheelbarrows, hand tools, buckets etc, so you don’t have to carry anything around!
Making art is fun, and excellent to aid child development in all sorts of areas. And what better place to make art than in a sunny backyard? And the great outdoors is definitely suited to some art projects, especially the bigger, messier ones. If you don’t have a sturdy easel for your kids, it is definitely time to invest in one – they aren’t expensive, and are versatile (and adjustable for when your little one stops being so little). Chalks, water-based paints, mixed media, whatever could cause tears and scrubbing inside, is perfect alfresco.
It’s great to have a garden full of healthy plants, trees and flowers, and all the better if they attract some wildlife to feed, pollinate and even nest. Kids love to see birds, butterflies and bees, so plant some native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees around the perimeter of your backyard, and add a bird feeder and bath into the equation. You’ll see tons of species – a kid-friendly bird spotting book is also a good idea to keep them interested – as well as helping the environment. If you decide to have a bird feeder it’s best to avoid one on a pole with a platform on top. Unless you love squirrels as well, because they will be regular visitors. To keep the bird food for the birds, hang feeders from trees instead.
Making an enjoyable backyard for your kids should be a creative project. And that in turn will make the most of your garden, by sparking your kids’ creativity and imagination.