The garden is where your children first come in contact with nature and let their imagination loose so it seems obvious that you will want to make this playground as safe as possible for kids.
Of course, depending on their age, there are different things to be taken into consideration when child-proofing your garden. The younger they are the more danger they can put themselves in. A small pond for a 12 year old might a refreshing paddle but for a 5 year old it might be life threatening.
Also, depending how old your children are, you will need to assess whether you wish to encourage wildlife in your garden. The rule of thumb is the more vegetation the more insects, pests and animals you will attract. Attention should be paid to the variety of plants that adorn your flowerbeds as well as the games your children will play.
Fences in the yard are an important part of garden child-proofing. Your children, as inherent explorers, might wander off beyond your reach in the blink of an eye. Thus, with fencing, you ensure a safe perimeter where you children can explore without getting lost in strange lands.
The fence should be high enough to deter kids from climbing and you should fix any broken fence panels or fill any gaps. Also, it will be advisable to check for any spikes that protrude from the fence.
The gate locks and latches should be installed at a level that is out your children's reach. It would be counterproductive if you installed a high fence but your kids can just walk out from the front gate.
Children are more energetic than adults and they don’t distinguish between playing at daytime or night. During the day the sun helps you keep an eye on their activities and prevent them from harm. However, the absence of light at night poses greater danger.
Hence, you should opt for some appropriate lighting. The key to lighting up your garden after dark is to direct any lighting fixtures towards selected trees, plants or other garden features. Not only will it provide you with dramatic accents across the garden, but it will highlight the spots that are most likely to be used by your kids. Lighting up a garden after hours will also offer the added benefit for you to enjoy your space after the sun goes down. Glass of wine in hand is optional!
Ponds and other water features are danger zones for small children. If they are left uncovered or unclean they can attract a variety of pests, such as mosquitoes. Stagnant water is usually a breeding spot for such pests. If you don’t wish to drain or cover the pond you can erect a fence around it while amphibians can act as the pest police.
Don't neglect to consider the rapid growth of children and how they can jump over objects they couldn’t climb a month ago. You can also eliminate the water element from you garden by filling a pond with soil.
Child-proofing garden furniture follows the same principles as your interior rooms. Given that your children find amusement in pushing and pulling objects, your furniture should be as sturdy as possible.
You will need to check your outdoor furniture for sharp corners, protruding materials and footholds that could be used as a ladder by your kids. The easiest way to cover the sharp corners of your furniture is with padding. As coffee tables are inherently sharp edged, you could replace them with the soft curves of plush ottomans.
As the garden will transform into your children's playground it's inevitable that swings, slides or even trampolines will take up space. Children usually have a limited perception of danger that can quickly and unexpectedly turn fun into destruction. Thus, it's imperative to ensure everything is properly anchored and checked after a heavy shower of rain as they can loosen in the softened soil.
You can also include something soft at the foot of playground apparatus to lessen the impact that follow inevitable falls. Fake grass and padded foams are good choices as they can act as cushions. It will be best if you avoid concrete and brick surfaces as they will be painful to land on, and pea gravel is also best avoided as they can be a choking hazard.
The terrace or balcony offer two serious hazards for your children; they can slip through the railing and fall or potentially get stuck in the railings. Hence, it is important to make sure that gaps between railings are not wide enough for you kids to squeeze through
If the railings do happen to be wider than they should, you can cover them with plastic garden fencing, sheets of clear glass or PlexiGlass. These measures will be also useful when your railings have horizontal bars on the bottom that can be used as a ladder by children.
As children are very resourceful at placing themselves in danger situations, steer any furniture away from the railings and make sure that the stairs leading to the terrace are safe by incorporating a gate with a latching mechanism.
Children are always tempted to put anything they see on the ground into their mouths. When it comes to the garden that could include toxic plants, inedible fruit or small fruits that pose a chocking hazard. You should therefore remove any mushrooms or oleander and plants that bear small or inedible fruits.
Plants can also have prickly leaves that can harm your kids so avoid buying any or remove them if they already grow in your flowerbed. Plants that are in a decaying state attract slugs, which can leave a trial of slime behind them, which can be considered intriguing by small children. With young minds still in development, colourful blends of flowers will be extremely stimulating and the variety you wish to include can become an educational tip for them.
A garden is likely to be the first encounter children will have with mother nature and their curiosity for their new environment can be risky. However, by following these simple steps you will be able to create a safer heaven for your children to explore and play.
For more child inspired garden ideas, you might like to check out: Garden Features Your Kids Will Love.