You want your little ones to be able to wander freely through your garden. Nature play is one of the most beneficial activities your children can engage in, and sending them outdoors to spend happy hours in natural playscapes can free up time for you.
They get to breathe in fresh air and soak up the warm sun on their skin.
They get to exercise their muscles and use their creativity.
They get to observe and learn about the small wildlife that gather in your garden.
And you get a little peace and quiet.
If you’ve got kids and you’d like them to freely enjoy your garden, your number one priority is childproofing it. There are a few things to consider when planning a children’s garden. In this post, we’ll focus on one very important aspect: the plants. If you have an indoor garden, with verdant plant pots adorning every table, windowsill and toilet cistern, and hiding all your skirting boards, and you’ll enjoy this article too.
We’ll start with how to decide which plants shouldn’t be found near your child’s natural play spaces – and then move onto how to pick ones that absolutely should.
Research is your number one tool for avoiding plants that could harm your child.
While it would be impossible to list every potentially harmful plant in this article, Granny Google has all the wisdom we need. If you’re thinking of planting something in your child’s outdoor play area, do a quick search to see if that plant has any harmful properties.
Here are our top tips for keeping harmful plants out of your child’s garden.
Poisonous plants: when researching, pay attention to roots, leaves, flowers, fruit and sap. Many poisonous plants aren’t entirely toxic – for example, the flowers may be poisonous while the leaves are harmless – so make sure there’s no part that could harm your child.
Thorns: avoiding plants with large thorns makes sense, but you don’t need to avoid every thorny plant. If your child has well-developed communication skills (for example, you can show them the thorns and explain that they need to be careful), there is no reason to avoid plants like blackberries or rambling roses, which are a lot of fun. Picking out the occasional splinter happens to everyone who spends time outdoors.
Skin irritants: research this as well. If plants aren’t known skin irritants, you could still make sure they aren’t uncomfortable to touch by checking them out at the plant nursery. Avoid tough grasses or anything else that could cut.
Now that we’ve got a good idea which plants won’t make your child happy, let’s look at the ones that will.
The key to a happy child’s garden is choosing plants that will please the senses.
This is what it’s all about, folks!
Here’s how to focus on your child’s five senses with plants.
Touch: sow plants that have soft, furry, squishy or smooth elements.
Smell: sow plants that have fragrant or strong-smelling leaves and flowers.
Sight: sow plants that have brightly colored elements, or unusual structure.
Hearing: sow plants that bear seed pods that kids can rattle and shake.
Taste: plant loads of edibles – kids love that!
On top of that, kids will have lots of fun with plants that:
Have big seeds which are easy to plant,
Bear large, abundant fruit which are low-down and easy to harvest,
Bear generous amounts of flowers they can pick frequently,
Are something they could climb in or on, or that have an abundance of hanging growth they could create a mysterious den under.
Set the stage by including your kids in your garden preparations (you could even get them excited with our kid’s gardening set). Global warming, sustainability concerns and environmental issues threaten our beautiful planet. Gardening with your kids, teaching them to love nature, is a vital first step in preparing them to make a difference when these issues are passed into their hands.
Written by Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.