When we have children, most of us imagine a big garden where they can play outside safely. We picture swings and slides, paddling pools in the summer, and lots of space for them to play and enjoy themselves. You might also want some grown-up space, to plant your favourite flowers, cook and relax in the summer sun. Finding the balance and giving your children a fun garden that’s safe for them to enjoy can be tough. Here’s a look at why it’s worth it, and how you can create a safer outdoor space.
The Benefits of a Safe Garden
There are many benefits to having a safe garden for kids to play in. These include:• Playing outside boosts creativity• Outdoor play is messy, and the kids can play freely without having to worry about getting the house messy• Outdoor play encourages imagination• A garden encourages sensory development• Children with a garden are more likely to love nature and the outdoors• A chance to get more exercise• You could grow food together, teaching your children about the food cycle and nutrition and encouraging healthy eating habits• More vitamin D and fresh air• Having a garden can mean that you save money not going to expensive attractions as often – especially in the summer
Establish Rules Early On
One of the most effective ways to keep your children safe in your garden, while teaching them responsibility, is to set rules and guidelines and teach them how to keep themselves safe as soon as they start spending time outdoors, even if you are supervising.
It’s okay for these rules to evolve as your children grow, and for you to start giving them more freedom as they get older but having some basic and clear rules from the start, like always closing the gate, never going in the shed alone, or staying in certain areas, will help.
Check Your Plants
Some plants are toxic, or even poisonous if touched or ingested. As adults, we know what to touch, when to wear gloves, and to wash our hands after we’ve been in the garden. But if you have young children, they can be attracted to pretty colours, and even if they are careful, they might accidentally kick a ball into a toxic plant without meaning to or noticing that they have.
When you buy plants and flowers, make sure they are safe first, and if you didn’t plant everything in your garden personally, make sure you know exactly what everything is, and remove anything that’s toxic or that you can’t identify.
Make Sure You Have a Safe Shed
You’ve probably noticed that kids have a lot of stuff. This is as true outside as it is inside. They’ll have outdoor toys and crafts that can easily become damaged or cause hazards if they are left out. Your possessions, bikes, and tools can also create hazards for children. This is why a shed with safe plastic roof sheets is an essential addition to your garden.
If you already have a shed to store things away in, make sure it’s safe and in good condition. Check the door, and make sure the lock works, if the roof is old, upgrade to corrugated roofing sheets or a polycarbonate sheet from Clear Amber. If your children are old enough to get their bike out of the shed, make sure it’s well stored, and that anything you don’t want them to touch is locked away in a separate area.
Tidy Away Chemicals and Tools
Having a shed is great, but it only helps to keep your garden safe if you use it. Try to avoid chemicals and use natural cleaning products as much as possible. But if you do use any chemicals, or things like paint and tools make sure you tidy them away safely as soon as you have finished with them. Never leave them out when your children are home, even if they are inside, or you are just popping in for a minute.
Check Play Equipment for Wear
If you have any play equipment in your garden, like swings and slides, but also smaller toys like a sand pit, water table,and even outdoor toys, make sure they are in good condition. Old and worn toys can quickly become unsafe if they get rusty, screws become loose, they get broken, or they are left outside and uncovered in bad weather and become slippery.
Check any play equipment and toys regularly, store them safely, cover them in bad weather and if anything is broken or needs maintenance, fix or remove it from your garden immediately.
Add a Fence and Gate
One of the biggest dangers of a garden is that our children could wander out unnoticed, or that a stranger could come in. While you should always supervise young children outside, all parents know how quickly children can move or get into trouble when we turn our backs for even a second.
One of the most effective ways to improve safety in your garden is to make sure you have a high fence and a lockable gate.
Be Very Careful with Water
You might be tempted to add a water feature to your garden, and while this can be a lovely touch with many benefits, even a small amount of water can be dangerous to very young children. Consider waiting until your children are older before adding a water feature to your garden.
If you have toys that have water or a paddling pool in the summer, make sure you have clear rules that your children understand, and that you always supervise their water play.
Keep it Tidy
In bad weather, our gardens can quickly get messy. Leaves and debris get blown in, and if they get wet, can cause trips and slips. Get into good habits and keep your garden as tidy as possible. Encourage your children to help out, keeping their outdoor toys tidy too.
If you do want a more grown-up space, or you enjoy cooking in your garden, separating it into zones is a fantastic idea. A relaxation space, an eating and cooking area, and a play zone are just some ideas of how you could use your space. Filling the play zone with toys and fun things to do, as well as lots of colour and texture, means that the kids will be less likely to venture into other areas.
Add a Safety Station
If you and your family spend a lot of time in your garden, then as careful as you try to be, and as safe as you make your garden, there are bound to be the occasional accidents and injuries. Adding a safety station with cleaning products and wipes and basic first aid supplies is a great way to make sure you’ve always got what you need in an emergency.
Regularly Risk Assess Your Garden
Things change very quickly outdoors. At least once a season, go around your garden looking for and removing any risks to keep your children safe.
Having a garden when you have children gives you an opportunity for lots of outdoor fun. But only if you invest some time and money in creating a safe space and teaching your children how to care for themselves in it.