Making Space for Play

Parents and children want different things

It’s no secret that parents and children want different things from a garden. While adults are interested in beautiful design, property value and maintenance, kids are often happiest in an unkempt jungle that allows for free play. But there are some ways that both kids and parents can get what they want from an outdoor space.

Finding a happy medium

Flower beds can restrict play and make areas of the garden “out of bounds” to children. Instead try to keep space between plantings for children to explore.

Too many open spaces can restrict play; create areas for hiding and exploring.

Play equipment is great but try to allow some space for children to use their imaginations for free play.

Choose plants that are “kid friendly”. Plants they can pick smell and hide under.

Pick plants that are hardy, less maintenance for the grown ups and more resilient for child play. Native Australian plants are a good alternative. See Sabrina Hahn’s suggestions and Water Corporation's waterwise plant selector.

Shade is important for sun safety, consider planting trees that offer shady play spaces.

Consider making areas for kids play and keeping a no-go area for special plants, it could save heartache in the long run.

Keep anything you don’t want the kids to touch out of their reach.

Place a weather proof box outside to store toys and equipment. If you don’t have the skills to make one, why not use a large tool box, they are inexpensive and hardy.

Garden features for kids

While grassed areas are great for games, they don’t offer the same opportunity for imaginative play that interactive gardens can. With a little planning you can create projects that are good looking, fun and imaginative.

  • Climbing trees can offer hours of fun. See Sabrina Hahn’s suggestions.
  • Create features that allow children to hide. Ferns, native shrubs and fallen logs can offer kids a place for imaginative play.
  • Children love sand, water and mud but they can be messy. Sand pits are a great way to contain the mess and when children out grow the area, the sand pit can be filled in and reclaimed as part of the garden.  Mud kitchens are also a wonderful way to have messy play.

  • Soft grasses can be great for younger children. See Sabrina Hahn’s suggestions.
  • Stepping stones are great for games. Consider using cross sections of wood or concrete blocks. Try and make sure they sit relatively flat so that children don’t trip.
  • Bird feeders allow kids to learn about animals. For hints on making your own bird feeder there are lots of suggestions online. Try researching the best types for your yard.
  • Bridges offer great opportunities for play and are an attractive garden feature. They can be as simple as lying a log over a hollow in the garden or can be purchased pre-made from garden stores.
  • Consider making a path for trikes and bikes in the yard. A winding path looks attractive and is a safe place for young children to play.
  • An area of concrete or stone will offer kids a place to play ball games and skip.
  • Chalk boards are a great way to bring an inside activity into the garden. (Simply paint a piece of plaster board with chalkboard paint from the hardware store. If you have an existing wall that would work, simply paint over it with chalk board paint and start drawing.)
  • Consider creating a “room” by planting a circle of plants of flowers with an opening in the middle.
  • Most importantly, let them have fun. Make a rope swing, a cubby house, a hide out in the undergrowth, try and allow their imaginations to run wild.

Want more information? Check out our expert tips.

Plants kids will love

When you’re creating a child friendly garden think about the things they love to do. Kids like to smell, touch and pick plants, so choose varieties that will allow them to experience the garden with their senses.

Want more information? Check out our expert tips.

Space for play

Making your garden kid friendly is not just about having fun. Outdoor play has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. Play in natural environments improves motor skills and helps kids perform in the classroom. Finding some space for unstructured outdoor play will help to set your children up for success.