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Kid-friendly gardens

Transforming your garden, or even a small section of it, into a fun-filled child-friendly space can set young imaginations alight, encourage creativity, a passion for nature and a love of the outdoors.

Getting kids in on the action can be as simple as allocating a windowsill container or a micro garden in the corner of the yard or balcony. Grow small, low-growing plants such as ferns and herbs – try thyme or camomile – and stir their imagination. National Children’s Gardening Week (26 May-3 June, www. childrensgardeningweek.co.uk) has great ideas such as growing edible hanging baskets, crazy grass heads, pizza wheels, making a plant terrarium, and creating a natural tipi with bamboo canes and runner beans.

Grow sweet strawberries and raspberries that they will enjoy eating, and have sunflower, marrow and pumpkin growing competitions. Knowing where their fruit and veg comes from not only encourages kids to eat it, but also means you and they know the food is healthy, pesticide-free, and vegan (if you avoid animal manure and other animal inputs).

Artificial turf is a good option if your kids play a lot of football, although looking after your existing turf well so it is playable for longer is a better option for the environment. This means scarifying with a lawn rake to get rid of moss, aerating with a fork to let in air and water, feeding and weeding. Make the lawn fun too. A turf tattoo is formed when cardboard letters or shapes are left on grass for a few days and the light-starved lawn temporarily becomes paler. And ‘grass graffiti’ can be made with harmless chalk spray.

Look at how you zone your garden. An area for smaller children is best placed close to the backdoor so they can be supervised more easily. Older children might like space and privacy at the bottom of the garden for a den (see CBBC programme Dengineers for ideas).

If you have space, sandpits and play frames (use bark or bonded rubber crumb as a safe landing zone) will entice most children outside. Try outdoor games such as cricket, rounders, archery, croquet, quoits and boules.

Activities kids will love:
Cutting (make sure they are safe with secateurs), bonfires (again safety is important – make a ring they can’t go inside around the fire), digging (don’t worry if little ones do it in the wrong place), weeing on the compost heap (the nitrogen activates the decomposition), harvesting, swinging from trees and going on bug/egg/fruit/plant hunts.

Avoid:
Poisonous plants like laburnum; prickly plants such as gooseberries and roses that can prick fingers and burst footballs; being precious about plants (they will get damaged), ponds (unless safely fenced), and sharp tools (lock them in the shed).

The Children’s Garden by Matthew Appleby is published by Frances Lincoln