Gardens for a Young Family

Gardens Suitable for a Young Family

Gardens are for people, and this is apt to mean for young people as well. Children are not, as so many adults seem to think, completely incompatible with a good garden. To choose not to plan or garden carefully ‘until the children are bigger’ is taking an apparently easy way out. In fact, it is not easy: it means that permanent plants are missing several years of growth by late planting. It also means that children grow up with an atmosphere of ‘it doesn’t matter’ to the garden as a whole and may never develop any attitude of care to plants that are not their own. In this situation the garden is at risk for a couple of decades. Much better to cater for children from the beginning for the mutual benefit of all concerned.



Children from a very early age are able to accept that ‘this is yours’ and ‘this is mine’, though adults cannot expect children not to be somewhat proprietorial towards the garden in general and treat it as such. Not long ago my then two-and-a-half-year-old son beat the heads off a couple of dozen fine scarlet fosteriana tulips just as they were coming out. He explained ‘me not like that colour’. White ones were untouched so that although my anger came very near the surface, there was no alternative but to accept the value-judgment as valid, although the child’s reaction to it was extreme! The point is that even young children, hardly beyond the toddler stage, do notice their garden surroundings and react to them.

In many cases behaviour will fulfil expectations. As with the house where scribbling on the wall is unacceptable, if other members of the family care for the garden so too, in general, will the young. This is not to encourage fussy parental ‘garden proudness’, merely to indicate that, to quote the old hymn ‘beneath his heaven, there’s room for all’.

With young children, that is under five years old, it is desirable for a mother’s peace of mind that the play area should be in sight or at least in earshot of the kitchen window. This means, most probably, a part of the family’s important sitting-out area. There is no point in tucking the children’s bit away in a shady corner — they won’t use it and will inevitably overflow where you don’t want them.


Sand and Water

The things especially enjoyed by this age group are sand and water play. Both provide endless opportunity for creative and imaginative play and these lead to development of coordination and manipulative skills. Modern knowledge of child development has given us clear insight that provision of interesting facilities for pre-school children at home is not a luxury.

Sandpits need to be big enough for children to experience something of reality in the activities they go in for. Tidy little sand-boxes are more suitable for the cat. Yet it is not unreasonable to expect a certain tidiness if this is a part of the terrace. However, sand will get out from the containers. Raised sandpits are bound to be messy. Much better that sand distributed during a play session can be swept from the flat into the hole. Pits constructed in an area of rectangular paving are simplicity itself. The ideal is to have a pit within a pit of a size which is not out of scale with the area available and is arranged on the module of the paving stones 75 cm x 150 cm (2-1/2ft x 5 ft) is a good size for the sandpit itself and will accommodate four reasonably civilised children without undue warfare. Thirty centimetres (a foot) of sand whose top is 15 cm (6in) below paving level is about right. The double pit effect will provide two terraces for sitting space. It does not matter if sand gets wet (you cannot build anything with sand that flows like a television commercial for table salt) but a cover is desirable. It should be narrowly slatted if the area is a part of the terrace that is used often, otherwise a frame with chicken wire to prevent fouling by animals is sufficient.

Nearby can be sited a low table — a flagstone cemented to a block of stone is suitable — where a bath of water can be put out for water play. No matter that sand and water will be brought to each other — better than soil and water any day. Sunken water for this age is a mistake and a potential danger, but the thought that the sandpit might be subsequently converted into an ornamental pool can be considered when the pit is being planned. For remember, children do, eventually, grow up.


Growing up

After a time they wish to be able to play away from mother’s view from the kitchen sink and having become more responsible, a children’s area out of sight is soon desired by everybody. Play becomes more adventurous and this is a time for swings, climbing frames, tree houses or whatever facilities can be provided. The more desirable from a child’s point of view these are, the better for the rest of the garden. This does not necessarily mean great expense and sophistication. Children are enormously resourceful; a large packing case can be as exciting as the smartest Wendy house. This area is best grassed and should be sown with a hard wearing mixture. In order that it will have settled down to take the wear desired of it, forward planning is most desirable.

Seclusion, of course, can be provided quickly with a row of runner beans or Jerusalem artichokes, but if time permits or an old garden is being brought into use, something in the way of jungle effects will be appreciated. To achieve this plant bamboos, large-leaved butterbur and similar wild-garden plants.

There seems little to be said constructively about ball games in relatively small gardens. They will be encouraged by putting virtually everything to grass, restricted or banned accordingly to the attitudes of the parents and convenience of facilities elsewhere. We all know that while it is good to have our children playing safely and near they will naturally gravitate to the best spots for the current craze: provide too much of le jardin sportif and the whole neighbourhood will use it. And you will have to give them tea as well!


Gardening for Children

gardens for young families If parents are interested in gardening so, most likely, will their children be — at least until an age of rebellion. Young children enjoy helping to sow or harvest vegetables. Boys as well as girls like to be able to pick flowers, and should be shown how to do so and what is permissible from an early age. Young children’s help in the garden does need to be on their own terms; nothing is likely to put them off for good more than jobs that are obvious chores (later no doubt this is valid).

The children’s own terms are often best met by having their own individual plots, when they want it and for as long as they want it. Quick maturing annuals, especially edible ones, are desirable and there is no reason why a couple of square yards against the path in the vegetable plot shouldn’t develop into a miniature cottage garden as cornflowers and radishes, peas and petunias compete for space. If this does become a keen pleasure it is a good idea for children to cut up seed lists (after use) to make scrap websites showing the things they are about to sow and grow.


10. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Childrens Gardens, Gardening Ideas, Types of Gardens | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Gardens for a Young Family


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