Encourage your little ones to venture outdoors
by creating their very own play area. With everything from sand pits and climbing frames to chalkboards and slides, you can design a fun-filled place for their imaginations can run wild.
Plot out the perfect spot and create features your kids will love - whether you’re planning on exploring nature together or growing their favourite veg.
Step 1 - Plan it out
Pick and plan out your play area
Walk around your garden, paying attention to where the sun shines and where the more shaded areas are. You want a space that’s warm so they’ll want to go out, but also one that has plenty of shade so they’re protected from the sun. If you already have an idea of where you want your play area to go, take into consideration how far away it is from your neighbours. Look at the boundary lines and check with your local authority if there are any regulations that relate to the installation of play equipment in your backyard.
Prepare your play area
Once you’ve picked out your spot, start clearing it. Weeding, pruning and mowing the grass will help get the space into shape. Rake any fallen leaves away and clear debris from the ground. If your play is on a patio or decked space, replace any broken slabs or planks and remove weeds that have sprouted through the cracks.
View our guide to planning & designing a family garden
Step 2 - Keeping safe
Think about safety and storage
Kick-start the process with mulching. A layer of chippings can separate your play area from the rest of your garden and, when applied to the correct depth, it can create a soft surface. Placed around swings or under climbing frames, it can add that extra layer of protection for energetic youngsters.
If you’re planning a particular colour scheme for your play area, you’ll be able to find mulch that matches. From play bark for a more natural look to colourful rubber that’ll brighten up your garden play area, there’s a whole host of options to choose from.
Storage boxes, sheds and outdoor units are ideal for dotting round your children’s garden play area, so toys can be neatly tucked away once a busy day of playing has ended. Transform a wooden shed or storage box with paint and make it into a feature of the space. For something more subtle, incorporate a plastic unit into the background.
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Step 3 - Add the play zone
Pick your play equipment
Swing sets, climbing frames, slides and sand boxes are classic garden toys that children love and, if size permits, all work well together.
Don’t stop at one or two pieces of outdoor equipment though - add a variety of different items to create an inviting space. Outdoor chalkboards are a great way to encourage little ones to express themselves, all while enjoying a dose of fresh air. A rope ladder or climbing rocks attached to a tree helps channel their inner explorer.
A water table can be a way to get them experimenting and using their hands, simply fill it with water and add in buckets and spades for an afternoon of fun. Adding a wooden playhouse or outdoor tepee can give them a place to call their own.
When creating your garden play area, use your imagination when decorating as a way to spark theirs. Wrap outdoor fairy lights around trees, hang bunting along fences and, if you can, use colourful outdoor paint to decorate specific areas.
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Step 4 - Projects to get your kids gardening
Try some planting projects with the children
Growing vegetables in a small plot or raised bed is an excellent way to teach your little ones about science and nature. If your garden is more on the modest side, a small growing table or container can work just as well.
Section off a small area within your kids’ zone and try planting a range of flowering plants, herbs and shrubs. Within a few weeks, it should bloom into a beautiful area that’ll ignite their senses. You’ll be able to tend to it together and learn about each individual plant. Choose their favourite veg so they can enjoy their very own produce.
There are plenty of other features you can add to your children’s garden play area to make it extra special and unique, including sundials, bug-houses and garden games.
View our guide to planting a mini vegetable garden