How to create a child-friendly garden

The backyard is the perfect place for families to spend time together, especially with children. And, with a little planning, it’s easy to create a garden that’s perfect for the whole family.

Bunnings magazine, December 2019

Space for play

“An excellent way to encourage outdoor and creative play is to give kids their own space,” says Matt Gerakios, urban horticultural consultant at Phyton Australia. “It also gives them an opportunity to take ownership and responsibility of their own play equipment, garden beds and, hopefully, any mess, too!” 

Ask littlies to be involved in the design process and they’re more likely to be excited by their newfound responsibility. It will help if you give them options, so you can guide them in the right direction. Otherwise, you may end up with a kaleidoscope of colourful toys and equipment.

A cubby house, swing set or raised garden beds are just a few ideas you can build on. “If you’re short on space, remember to think vertically as well as horizontally – a raised cubby can instantly add square metres to your space, and a vertical fence planter can make great use of a small sunny spot,” says Matt. 

Also consider a sheet of ply painted in chalkboard paint, or pavers laid out in a hopscotch pattern. Simple ideas can often be the best and can be incorporated into your garden without too much disruption. “Keep it fairly close to the house, so you can keep an eye on the littlies, but also give them their space and a sense of privacy,” adds Matt.

 

 

cubby house

Ground control

Soft surfaces that can deal with foot traffic and the odd tumble are perfect for play areas, says Nick Katsoulis of Hortic. “Couch or kikuyu lawns are great options as they’re soft and hard-wearing, but for a stylish alternative, try mondo grass or dichondra,” he suggests. 

“For high foot traffic areas or in areas with deep shade, quality synthetic turf is ideal, providing the area is properly prepared.” It’s low maintenance, but still soft underfoot – no grazed knees here! 

Safety first

Kids will be kids, and you can bet they won’t always wear sunscreen or a hat while playing. If this sounds like yours, Matt says to consider shade plants or a shade sail. “Creating seasonal shade in parts of the garden can be achieved with deciduous trees such as maple, or even deciduous vines over an arbour or pergola,” he says. “Where these aren’t an option, consider a shade sail or cloth – they’re available in different colours and degrees of sun block out.”

Remember, all bodies of water, including small ponds, wading pools and bubbling water features, can also be risky for children. Depending on the depth of the pool or pond, you may need to install fencing or use a safety grid across the top to prevent children from falling in.

sand pit

Teen retreat

As your kids grow, so too should the garden. Consider trading in the sandpit or wading pool and transforming areas so they can hang with their friends. 

“Sandstone block seats coupled with lounging cushions around a fire pit makes for an attractive retreat,” says Nick. You can also transform a shed into a ‘no adult zone’; simply add a few themed furnishings – think lounge chairs, wall hangings and decorative ornaments – for an instant facelift. 

Pretty and practical

Adults deserve a space in the garden too, of course, and the good news is you can have both, without compromising too much on style or practicality. Create informal garden ‘rooms’, by framing areas of the backyard with low hedges or medium-sized shrubs. 

“This creates distinct zones, giving both kids and adults their space. Plus, it can help buffer low-flying balls, too,” says Nick. Include a winding pathway between the spaces, perhaps with crazy paving or large flagstone pavers, to provide an enjoyable but attractive surface to play ball or ride bikes.

Garden ornaments, such as pinwheels, metal garden animals and decorative solar lights, create visual interest, can fire the imagination, and are incredibly pleasing for the whole family.

Scent of success

Choose plants with fragrance, colour and texture to make the garden interesting for children

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’) 

Tufts of purple leaves with gorgeous ‘cat tail’-like heads.

fountain grass

Lemon-scented myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) 

Fragrant, lemon-scented leaves with white fluffy flowerheads in summer and autumn.

lemon myrtle

Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) 

Forms a thick carpet of fleshy leaves, covered with pink, yellow or white daisy-like blooms in spring and summer.

pigface flower

Need to know

Remember, not all plants mix well with kids. Some, such as oleander Thevetia peruviana and Nerium oleander, are toxic. Avoid plants with berries that curious kids may want to sample, as some are poisonous (for example white cedar), and steer clear of plants with thorns, spikes or prickles that can poke eyes or irritate skin. 

If there’s bee allergy in your family, look at options less likely to attract them. It’s wise to do your research well before you make your plant selection. 

Raise a patch

“A vegie garden is a great way to get the kids interested in gardening, and there is plenty of produce to grow year-round,” says Nick. Look for raised vegie beds so they’re easy to reach, and consider installing a simple drip irrigation system for the days when kids forget to water. 

When it comes to plant choices, look for quick rewards. “Fast-growing fruits and vegies, like strawberries, blueberries and radishes, are sure to keep kids intrigued,” says Matt. Interplant with carrots and snow peas – they look fun and make a great garden snack. 

Florals can feature, too. Violas and marigolds are pretty and edible, while sunflowers are just a joy to grow. Play a game to see who can grow the tallest sunflower!

More great ideas for kids

We’ve got plenty of fun D.I.Y. ideas to help you keep the kids occupied, check them out now!

Teddy Bear's Birthday 05:16

Craft Activities How to create a Teddy Bear’s birthday Has your teddy bear got a birthday coming up? Why not throw a party? Here’s how:

kids binoculars made from recycled toilet paper rolls 03:35

Craft Activities How to create a binocular safari Creating Binoculars is essential for spotting wildlife on a safari. Follow this step-by-step guide to find out how to make your own.

terracotta pot person 02:22

Craft Activities How to create terracotta pot people Take two pots, stick them together and decorate it any way you like. Voila – you’ve made your very own terracotta pot person.

Two cactus rock pots 02:30

Craft Activities How to create cactus rock pots We show you how to make an easy cactus garden that really rocks.

bug hotel 02:03

Craft Activities How to make a bug hotel Making a bug hotel is a great way to bring all sorts of critters such as native bees, bugs and other interesting creatures into your yard. It’s a great project for the kids who can then watch them grow in their natural habitat.

How to create letter art 02:14

Craft Activities How to create letter art Whether it’s your name, a slogan, or an inspiring word, making FUN letter art is all about putting your own stamp on timber letters. Here’s how to do it.

how to make a nature hanging 02:47

Craft Activities How to make a nature hanging Making a nature hanging for your room is an awesome way to use things you find outside to make something cool for your room. It’s easy and fun, here’s how to do it.

Noughts and Crosses Game 02:52

Craft Activities How to make a monster noughts and crosses game Who doesn’t love noughts and crosses? This version is called Monster Noughts and Crosses and the whole family can play. Here’s how to make your game at home.

low water garden

Planning & Projects How to create a low-water garden ‘Dry’ or ‘low-water’ gardening is a real art and, when done right, will provide you with an inviting landscape that uses very little water.

Finished artificial green garden wall behind garden bench 02:05

Planning & Projects How to create a green wall using artificial hedge Green walls are all the rage at the moment, but buying and maintaining one can be costly. Why not have a go at creating your own using pieces of artificial hedge – it looks great and will last the distance. Here’s how.

reducing water

How To Save Water How to reduce water usage Whether indoor or outdoor, there are lots of ways to be smart about water usage. And there are some simple actions that can make a big difference to your water bill.

ring doorbell 01:53

Doors How to install a ring doorbell The Ring video doorbell is a wireless doorbell which allows you to see who is at your front door. Find out how to install the Ring video doorbell yourself.

a tree lit up with solar lights around it 01:46

Garden Lighting How to install solar lights in your garden Solar lights are a great way to illuminate your pathways and highlight your garden beds at night. Install them yourself with these easy steps.

how to organise your pantry 02:52

Shelving & Storage How to organise your pantry Create an organisational system in your pantry with these handy storage hints. Trust us – its life changing!

front door 01:31

How To Paint How to paint your front door Make an entrance every darn day of the week by painting your front door a bold, enticing colour!

how to hang pictures

Walls The best way to hang pictures on a wall Learn the tricks to hanging your wall decor so it looks good – and doesn’t damage the plasterboard. Create an effortless-looking display by taking the time to consider spacing, proportion, frame styles and colour palettes.

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
Top of the content