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Planning A Play Area in Your Garden

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 24 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Play Area Garden Play Area Safety

Having a play area in the garden is an absolute must if you’ve got small children – there’s no better way for youngsters to get out into the fresh air than providing them with their very own play ground to explore.

Planning how to incorporate some child-friendly ideas into the garden is largely a matter of common sense, and obviously with any play area, safety has to be high on the list of essential features.

With more than 125,000 children receiving hospital treatment for garden accidents every year, it’s worth taking the time to make sure your kids’ play area really is as safe as you can make it.

Play Area Safety

Where you site the play area is one of the most important safety factors; especially when very young children are concerned, plan to locate yours in clear sight of whichever room of the house you are likely to be spending most of your time and close enough to hear what’s going on.

You’ll also need to give some thought about making sure that the area is secure. Little children have the sort of penchant for exploration that makes Indiana Jones look a wary soul by comparison and no sense of danger – which makes for a scary combination. Fix things so that they cannot let themselves out of the gate and wander into the road, find their way into the garden shed with all those sharp tools and interesting-looking bottles of pesticide, or get anywhere near hazards such as greenhouses and garden ponds.

Ponds and paddling pools are a particular hazard, given their natural attraction for youngsters; it’s vital that children are never allowed anywhere near either without supervision.

Equipment For The Play Area

When it comes to buying swings, climbing frames, slides and the like, it really does pay to go for the very best quality you can. Well made and solidly built equipment will save a lot of tears and plasters in the long run – and possibly even some of the sort of anxious moments in the local casualty department that no parent ever wants to experience!

Make sure the ground underneath them is well padded – soft matting or a thick layer of bark chippings are the best, but buy material intended for use in children’s play area; it’s a bit more expensive, but safer and softer for those inevitable falls.

Child-Friendly Features

The sorts of features the play area has obviously depends on the interests of the children concerned – and their ages. It’s worth trying to think about how you’re going to make the transitions as they get older – and the play area needs to be updated – when you first start planning things, as it can make the job a lot easier later on. Aside of the adventure playground approach of swings and slides, a few other ideas might include:

  • Paddling Pool - great fun on hot summer days; there are lots of designs available, but the small inflatable ones are probably best, although the kind that come in two half-shells (the other half being a sandpit) seem very popular too. The usual precautions about never leaving youngsters unsupervised obviously apply – and don’t forget to empty it and put it away after use to avoid any accidents.
  • Sand Pits - another traditional favourite and a brilliant way to let children dig around without getting too dirty!
  • Grass - it’s probably a good idea to dedicate a patch of grass as a “playing field” if you want to keep the rest of the lawn in good condition. Watch where you put the goal posts or wickets to make sure that your windows aren’t in the line of fire!
  • Wild Garden/Nature Area - a bird table and some wildflowers will keep budding naturalists happily entertained for hours – and it’s educational too.
  • Child’s Garden for any young gardeners in the family, give them an area all of their own where they can garden like the grown-ups, without any danger they’ll uproot your prized begonias. There are some beautiful young person’s tools available these days – quality items but scaled down – so you’ll not be short for ideas come Christmas or birthday times.
  • Play Houses - there’s a wide range of outdoor play houses available – from the traditional wooden “Wendy-house” to forts, rockets and pirate ships.
  • Paths - including a good, level concrete or slab path in the play area can be particularly beneficial for learning to ride that first tricycle.

Parents can have as much fun planning the play area as their children ultimately get from using it. With a careful eye to safety and a little common-sense, almost any garden can accommodate some sort of play area – and you can get the chance to relive a little of your own childhood along the way!

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