Curiosity and exploration are part of growing up, and your garden is a great place to encourage this in your child. That being said, there are some potential dangers that you will need to address. You can follow a few simple steps to make your garden child friendly; nothing too drastic, and nothing that should prevent your from being able to enjoy your garden as you usually would.
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When planning how to make your garden more child friendly it is a good idea to split the space you have into ‘sections’. For a young child it is good to have an enclosed play area near the house so that you can keep a close eye on them. You can also set spaces for yourself to enjoy the garden, such as a patio area or a gazebo. It important to define these spaces clearly. Children are naturally curious and like to wander, so any dangerous areas should be closed to them with some kind of fencing. Keeping this in mind, you should also think about giving your garden some privacy from the outside. Hedges, shrubs and fences can prevent prying eyes and ensure a safe environment for your children.
The materials you have in your garden are also important. Grass is a good for safe play, since it can provide a naturally soft landing. Other popular soft play surfaces include bark chippings, artificial turf or even recycled glass. If your children are old enough for bikes or ball games you may want to consider having a hard surface area like a patio. Gravel and other similar surfaces are a poor choice: not only can your child get hurt on gravel, but young children will be tempted to put pieces in their mouth.
Any pools, ponds or water features in your garden can pose a serious hazard for your children. Certain websites advise you to remove any that you have, but there are things you can do to make them childproof. Have a sturdy and clear barrier around them, tall enough so that your child can’t climb over and with no gaps wide enough for your child to slip through. You will also want to install a self locking gate.
Childproofing a garden is not just about safety; you can also use it as a chance to encourage play. Most play equipment is bright and plastic, which is against the taste of most adults. However, wooden play sets are much, much more expensive. You will need to realise that children outgrow things surprisingly quickly. There is no point in spending thousands on a play set, because within a few short years it may no longer see any use. It is more economical to buy toys, games and equipment that can be folded and stored away. Wendy houses and dens are great, because children can usually get use of out of them even as they grow and their favourite games change.
Of course, you will also need to think about your plants. They are not necessarily dangerous for children, but you should be careful and check the properties of each plant you have. Poison can be found in places you would not expect, such as in daffodil leaves. Avoid plants with sharp points such as cacti or agaves. Safe plants can add a lot of colour to a garden and encourage your child’s imagination and development. Low maintenance species of plants are also advised, as your child could end up damaging them. Popular types include lavender or lamb’s ears. Trees can be a bit more difficult; anything with low hanging branches, or any that seem climbable, will not be safe for a younger child. As they grow older there will be less danger - you may even end up buying a tree house down the line.
The cost of making a garden more child friendly depends on the extent of the work that you need done. Remodelling or landscaping your garden for a more child friendly experience can cost thousands, but you can have simple work done very cheaply. There is no point breaking the bank just to make your garden child friendly: it would be better to plan your child’s safety within the context of a larger project. Plan carefully exactly what you want, and speak to multiple tradesmen so that you have several quotes to compare.
For childproofing your garden you will not necessarily need to go with a childproofing company. Though they claim to be experts, they are often expensive, and you may find yourself agreeing with everything they say out of worry for your child’s safety. A gardener should be able to do most of the work for you; as well as helping you plan the layout of your garden, they can also advise you on flowers, trees and other features that you could add without causing any danger to your child. If you do choose to buy play equipment, a capable handyman should be able to put it together for you. However, for tree houses or expensive wooden play equipment, it will be better for your peace of mind to hire a carpenter.
The best tradesmen tend to belong to national trade organisations. In this case, a gardener may belong to The Gardeners Guild, or a landscaper to the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI). These organisations have very high entry standards, and constantly monitor members to make sure they deliver the appropriate levels of quality and professionalism. These groups will also be able to help you in the event of a disagreement between you and a member.