The garden is a relaxing place to spend time outdoors with the whole family.
If you’re looking to improve your garden and make it more family friendly, start with the features that will be used the most and will make the biggest difference to your outdoor space.
If you like to do lots of cooking, consider creating a herb garden, veg plot or area of fruit bushes to provide you with lots of fresh ingredients. Or, if you like playing games, prioritise a decent lawn.
Browse our suggestions for creating a family-friendly garden, below.
Football-proof flower borders
Raised beds made from brick, hardwood or sleepers will go some way to keep footballs at bay and stop plants getting trampled. Low hedges or edging can be used to protect the plants within beds. Avoid planting tall, brittle or floppy plants near play areas and instead go for robust evergreens, grasses, achilleas and stachys.
Lawns for playing games
Lawns are the ideal soft surface for ball games, general running and tumbling and playing with pets. If starting from scratch, go for a hardwearing seed or turf mix that includes perennial rye grass and fescues. They’ll need regular mowing to get a neat finish. New lawns can be created by laying turf or starting from seed.
Garden features with more than one use are great in small spaces. A low coffee table that doubles as a sandpit or even a paddling pool once the top is raised, or box benching with a lift-up seat for toy storage, are good solutions that make the garden work for children and adults alike.
Seating that suits everyone
Nothing is nicer than sitting down to a family meal in the garden. Seating areas can be formal or relaxed, but do ensure furniture is sturdy enough for all ages to sit on. Choose a spot that receives sun when you’re most likely to use it, then provide shade with a parasol or pergola clothed in plants – deciduous climbers are good, casting shade in summer but not in late autumn or winter.
Safe ponds for finding frogs
Water is an essential element in any garden, beneficial to both wildlife and us, and a pond is a soothing place to sit and relax. Keep ponds covered with a metal grill or behind a secure gate while children are very young. For older children, a pond is a great learning tool, where they can enjoy pond dipping and can quietly watch visiting dragonflies and birds.
Video: Creating a wildlife pond
Picking your own food
Growing edible plants is a lovely way to involve children and encourage them to eat fruit and veg – they can even graze as they play! Try edible flowers like nasturtiums and violas, berries like redcurrants and blackberries – just choose a thornless variety like ‘Loch Ness’. If you have the space, give kids their own mini veg plot, even if it’s only a large pot. Try growing strawberries, or fast crops like salad leaves and carrots.
Disguise play kit with plants
Use plants to screen off large play equipment, such as swings or climbing frames, so they don’t draw the eye and dominate the garden. Climbers can be used to soften the appearance of play kit, while large shrubs can hide them from view. Trellis or slatted fencing can be clothed in plants, but still allow you to keep an eye on kids as they play.
Make your own fun features
A family garden should be a place of fun as well as beauty, and adding crafty features like this watering-can fountain helps to bring more interest to the space. Your children can create original artwork for the garden, either from clay or painted wood, or ask them to collect stones and lay them in patterns and shapes along paths or decking.
Paths to avoid muddy boots
Clear, defined paths in hard materials help to make the garden usable all year round and will allow kids to play outside without muddy footprints being traipsed through the house afterwards. Surfaces like stone or decking are hardwearing, wheel-friendly and kind to bare feet, while large stepping stones through a lawn, veg plot or gravel are lots of fun.
Space for family pets
Pets and poultry love to rummage and play in the garden, but they can also ruin a patch of newly dug ground or trample prized plants. Tough shrubs allow larger pets to play safely without causing damage, while gravel paths will give chickens a place to peck and provide them with grit, which is essential for their digestion. You can designate a sheltered spot for rabbit or guinea pig hutches and screen them with with trellis or an evergreen sedum roof.
Creative projects for the garden
- Create a mini-jungle with plants like bamboos and ferns
- Use a kit to create a living tunnel or shelter
- Paint plant pots or jam jars and tin cans for tea lights
- Build and paint cardboard dens and forts
- The ultimate garden project – build a treehouse!