Children inherently love nature. They are fascinated by living, growing things. By spending time just pottering around outside, children start to understand the world and their place in it. Today’s guest post is from Paloma of Paloma Interiors with some tips on designing outside spaces that will keep children outside and engaged, no matter what age.
Summer is around the corner, so your alfresco spaces should be getting more attention. As your family grows, your outdoor space will evolve to meet their changing needs. When planning it helps to realise that nothing needs to be permanent. Think about how long your outdoor area will be utilised, and then consider your investment for that space.
When you plan this your space with children in mind, design goes out the window a bit. If it is important to you, you should have an adult corner that is coherent and beautiful. But children’s outdoor space should cater to their ever changing needs, and design is secondary. Having said this, if you can apply some design principles to their space, you have a bonus.
- Function – determines the things you will put in this space
- Concept – the feeling you want to create when you enter this space
- Green furnishings – should fit in with your children’s needs: pretty things to look at and smell for little ones, perhaps something you can grow together for older kids
- Build – the main thing here is safety: a covered space in case of rain, non slip flooring, enough shade
- Lighting – once again, safety: children need to be able to see if they are going to be out after dark
- Heating – an electric or gas heater is great and easy.
This is a sensory trip for your baby. Smelling the outdoors, feeling the wind blowing, touching grass, seeing trees swaying or clouds floating by… Whether your baby is lying on a blanket on a patch of grass or bundled up in a blanket on the verandah; either is good. Make sure you have a bit of sun to keep warm, plus a shady spot to keep safe from that same sun. This is really just about getting some fresh air for the both of you.
You could plant some useful herbs with a good smell, or a lovely smelling Murraya hedge to enhance the experience.
A few centimetres of warm water in a wading pool for splashing in will be relished.
Accessories are more important at this age. It’s all about providing varied experiences, so temporary is good and so is cheap (also known as improvised). These are also experiences that the children can share with each other as they learn to play together.
A sandpit (with access to water!), wading pool, mini-picnic table to play at or share a snack, mini-tractor/ car, swing, cubby house, slippery-dip, mini veggie or flower patch, outdoor painting space, and tramp (properly installed and supervised) are some good ideas.
Toys that can come outside are great because they will be used differently (for example mixing with sand and water), and thus provide variety.
Spaces kids can help build are great. Make a cubby house by hanging large tablecloths or beach towels on all sides of the Hills Hoist, including the top. Big boxes that children can get inside are lots of fun too, especially if you make windows and doors with them. Large sheets of cardboard from these boxes are also great for getting pulled along on the slippery grass if you attach a rope to the two front corners (but please supervise). Everything is more exciting if it’s temporary.
PRIMARY SCHOOL YEARS
Above still applies. At the same time, children will be getting older and transitioning to different kinds of games.
All children are different; my experience with my two girls was that they didn’t need a lot of space. They were likely to bring some indoor toys outside and set up an imaginary environment for their toys where they could pretend to their heart’s content. They just wanted a private little corner.
On the other hand, some kids will need more space. They might be playing structured games that need space. If you don’t have space, a park is a good option.
Sometime around now is also a good time to consider a swimming pool if you have the budget. The more years you can get out of it the better.
Independence is setting in. Teenagers will want to spend time with their friends, so the aim is to make your place the place that they like to hang out. An outdoor space a bit further away from the main house where they can sit and hang out, and listen to music will fit the bill. Privacy is important.
Kids and outdoor spaces go hand in hand. I think the most important criteria in creating them is versatility because children grow up so quickly, and their needs are ever changing.
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