Photo by: Cayusa
As I kid I remember playing outside for hours on end. Come sunshine or showers, I didn’t care – all I wanted to do was ride around on my bike and hang out with the kids on my street! Sometimes my mom even had to physically drag me back into the house at bedtime. Ah, those were the days!
However with the prevalence of childhood obesity, it seems kids today aren’t getting the same amounts of active outside play as we ‘oldies' did. This is alarming because children need plenty of exercise in order to grow up into healthy adults; it has been proven again and again that children who exercise regularly are less likely to become obese as adults and they also benefit from having stronger bones and muscles.
Unstructured play with other children also helps them to develop their ability to socialise, an important skill that can’t be taught through computer games.
The problem is, many parents are fearful that their neighbourhood isn’t as safe as it used to be and they will actively discourage their children from going out into the streets to play. If that's you, have you considered turning your garden into a fun playground for your kids so they don't need to visit the local park?
Here's how to do it!
Measure the space you have available and plan the layout of the play equipment accordingly. You will need a clear space of 6-8 ft around any structures you’re putting in, like climbing frames and swings, and the ground will also have to be level underneath. You can install your playground to go directly onto the grass or alternatively, you might want to plan it to go onto a woodchip or rubber mulch base. You will also have to clear the ground of obstructions like tree stumps and rocks beforehand.
Think about how your play equipment will grow with your children. You want something that you can adapt as they get older (e.g if you’re including swings, you want to be able to replace the baby swings with bigger-kid swings in a few years time).
If space is an issue in your garden you can still consider some great play equipment like a Wendy house or even a sandpit. Although bear in mind that if you are considering a sandpit, you'll need a cover for when it’s not in use or else word will spread to the cats in your neighbourhood that there’s a new litter tray in town!
Buying the Equipment
Opting for new play equipment, rather than second-hand, will ensure that it is safety tested and will last for a long time. Wooden climbing frames are especially hardy, and lots of companies nowadays include 10-year anti-rot guarantees with their structures.
Buying new from specialist companies also means that you can often design it to your specifications and it’ll fit your garden perfectly. You can also someone to assemble it all for you, which saves you a day’s work and you’ll be sure that your structure won’t be a health and safety disaster waiting to happen, which brings me onto my next point…
If you have installed big equipment in your garden like a jungle gym, you will want to supervise the children playing on it because if they're anything like my kids they'll be strangely drawn to risky things like jumping from heights and going down slides head first.
If you are allowing your neighbours' children to play in your garden then you will need to lay down some ground rules and tell them what they can and can’t do, to avoid any potential liability cases. If you’re on friendly terms with the neighbours, why not install a garden log cabin for them to hang out in too? The parents can enjoy mojitos and a good chat whilst the kids go sandpit-crazy, under careful supervision.
Would you have loved a garden playground when you were a kid? I know I would have!