The outside is such a glorious space for children to play in. Our gardens are great places of adventure, for them to make memories and get as dirty as they want to within the safe limits of their own home. It may not be something that we particularly like (there’s dirt that is meant to be inside, and then there’s the dirt that definitely is 100% not meant to be anywhere near a house…), but it is helping them to go at their own pace and is so crucial to their learning; imaginative adventures and roleplay are a key part of their emotional development.
So what can you do in your garden to ensure that your children are making the most of it and getting the best from it? There are thousands of ideas out there, but the tops ones may just have made it into this blog post…
Make an Obstacle Course
This is probably for the older kids, but the younger ones can join in, too – you will just have to make it age-appropriate depending on how old they are. Soft play toys can be bought online, but these usually have to be stored safely away from any adverse weather. What you want are durable, versatile products which could also be a by-product of recycling; think big and collect water butts, pipes, plastic boxes and anything else that you can think of to use towards putting together a fun course around the garden. There are so many ideas online, from using an old plank of wood as a balance beam to army-crawling under tarpaulin, and during the summer months this can only be expanded upon with the addition of water. Use a hose-pipe to squirt the kids as they’re trying to make their way across – it’s so much fun to see them trying to get away from it, and the person having the most fun out of it will probably be the parent with the hose!
Create a Den
You can use whatever furniture you have available outside to be able to do this. It may even prompt you to buying a newer set – of course using den-building as the excuse. Some big, sturdy rattan furniture detailed by Bridgman would be a great example of things that can have a double use in your garden – simply drape old sheets across them and get the underneath all cosy, using pillows, cushions and throws. It can be a great addition during a summer’s day, especially when the sun is beating down and you need a safe space for the kids to take shelter. They won’t want to do it if it is a command, so making it seem like fun and creating a place that they would want to go is a fantastic way of enforcing sun shelter without them realising.
Bring out the Games
Garden games are always a big hit. Think of the board games that you used to play indoors on a rainy day and then imagine a bigger version. Then imagine even bigger than that! Classic games such as Jenga, Connect 4 and Chess are all available to buy online, and you may even find that there is a small selection at your local garden center or nursery. It’s not only fun for the kids – you can use them when inviting your own friends over, or even get involved and do kids vs adults matches. There’s something about making something life-size that is a bit enchanting really, isn’t there? It’s no different with games.
Believe in Magic
If your children are young enough to believe in fairies, make the outdoors into a wonderland for them. You can purchase or make your own fairy door, create your own wind chimes and danglies to hang from the trees and even set out a little pond for them to fish in – all you need is a spare washing up bowl and some clear stones to pop into the bottom, then simply dig a small hole and place it in. It will not only be great for imagining what the fairies are up to, but you may see wildlife start to appear in there too … watch out for frogs and newts especially if they are living in the area. Otherwise, visiting birds will gratefully use it as a shallow bath for themselves.
Gardens offer a brilliant space to do crafts that would otherwise cramp up or mess up a room inside your house. You needn’t worry about spills and other stuff falling over – grass and patios give you the chance to hose it all away. It’s simple, really. During the summer months you could get more creative and introduce related crafts like tie-dye, which relies on the heat of the sun to dry whatever you have created. It’s best to take it big when you’re outside in the garden and really make use of what is around you; whole days can be spent exploring what is around you. Trees can be used to create bark-rubbings, flowers can be pressed for use in later crafts and if you have daisies growing on your lawn, don’t see them as weeds – show your children how to make daisy chains to adorn their necks and heads. Kids love competition, so try and see who can make the longest one. You could be sat for hours outside, but it won’t be a day wasted – far from it – the memories that you make together will be something that no amount of money would ever be able to buy you.
So what will you use your garden for this summer? Whether it’s crafting, creating, sliding, jumping, imagining, believing or simply just relaxing in, children are there to set the precedent for you. Follow their lead and let them create the fun – you might be surprised at just how much joy you can take from watching the little ones in your life take control and make what was just a garden to you into their very own little world.