The ideal garden for children: a place to play happily and safely

Torben Schröder

A garden always exerts a great fascination on children: the vastness, the greenery, all sorts of places to climb and discover. By installing a few small hand grips to use for climbing, or even some larger playground equipment, you can be sure your children will forget all about the TV and smartphone – at least in the summer. Find out here how to design your garden in a safe and child-friendly way.

Two small children play in the garden.
© Getty Images

In this article

Children want to play

One important hint first: if there are children in your garden – whether they are your own or those of neighbors and friends – it’s only natural for things to get broken or messy sometimes. That’s why it’s not such a good idea to attempt to make your lawn the most beautiful in the area, or to purchase expensive plants. For children, the garden is a place for running, playing and hiding.

To stimulate their senses and encourage them to get exercise, it’s worth buying some play equipment. Below you will find some ideas to inspire you – ranging from a sandbox to a playhouse.

A sandbox

Small children in particular love sandboxes. Buckets, spades and shapes allow them to give free rein to their creativity – they can use sand to “bake cakes”, build sandcastles or construct underground tunnels. The risk of injury is very low. A finished kit like the one from is quite inexpensive at 150 francs. But it’s also possible to build your own sandbox. You should consider the following factors.

  • Position: don’t place the sandbox in the blazing sun, but find a spot that is as shady as possible, for example under a tree. You must also ensure that the children will remain visible and within calling range.
  • Material: wood is the easiest material to work with. Make sure that it is untreated and planed, i.e. free of splinters. If you want the sandbox to last a little longer, choose a more expensive and more robust variety such as Douglas fir wood.
  • Size: the larger the area for playing and digging in the sand, the more freedom the children will have. Two by two meters is the ideal minimum size. The sand should be at least 30 centimeters deep.
  • Structure: a simple construction consists of four corner posts, side walls and a seat or shelf on the upper edge. Drainage via a gravel or a water-permeable fleece will ensure that the water runs off well, as well as keeping weeds and animals away.
  • Sand: use play sand with a grain size of between 0.5 and 1.5 millimeters. This is neither too fine nor too coarse.
  • Maintenance: when the sandbox is not in use, you should cover it with a special sandbox net. It is recommended to replace the sand completely once a year.

Learn more here about how to build a sandbox yourself.

A little boy is squatting down in a sandbox. In one hand he holds a spade, in the other a shell shape.

Toddlers can spend hours in a sandbox. Build one yourself as a particularly nice treat for them.

A climbing frame

Modern climbing frames offer children an all-inclusive adventure playground in their own garden. The ability to engage in multiple physical activities will strengthen their motor skills and sense of balance. If you don’t have enough space for a complete climbing frame in your garden, you can also just attach a swing to a strong branch. For older children, simply hang a rope ladder from a suitable climbing tree.

A little girl plays on a homemade swing in the garden.

A home-made climbing frame – in this case a luxury version with a platform and wooden ladder.

A trampoline

Outdoor trampolines are becoming increasingly popular in people’s own gardens. One of the advantages is that a trampoline allows children to exercise and use up a lot of energy. But trampolines can be dangerous too, and the risk of injury is high. For this reason, the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (BFU) has compiled some tips for use that you as parents should follow.

  • The trampoline must have a safety net.
  • It must be set up in an area free of obstacles – without any branches protruding into the jumping area, for instance.
  • Only one person may use it at a time.
  • Children must be supervised at all times.
  • No special tricks such as somersaults should be attempted.
  • The trampoline needs regular maintenance.

If you observe all these points, there is nothing to stop your children from enjoying hours of fun jumping on the trampoline. You can find a wide range of different models at Galaxus, for example.

A playhouse

As a child, who didn’t enjoy withdrawing from their parents every now and again to spend time alone or with siblings and friends? A playhouse is the ideal place for children to set up their own “home”. They can organize a tea party, listen to music or get to know their first boyfriend or girlfriend a little better. We present two different models below.

  • The Exit Loft 550 Natur wooden playhouse from Galaxus stands on stilts, and has a real veranda and a slide. The facade is made of untreated cedar wood. The playhouse can be set up in no time at all thanks to the pre-assembled parts consisting of building panels, windows and a door. It costs 1,431 francs (price on 24 September 2020).
  • The Spielhaus Hüttengaudi from Betzold imitates a traditional mountain cabin – including charming details such as shutters with heart-shaped cut-outs. The construction time for this ground-level playhouse with veranda is specified as one hour for two adults. It will set you back 2,199 francs (price on 24 September 2020).
View of a playhouse standing in a garden.

A child-friendly retreat: in a playhouse, the little ones can have some time for themselves in complete privacy.

More games

Here we present a few outdoor games for the garden which do not require major purchases.

  • man’s bluff: this game involves blindfolding a child. The other children run around and tease the child with the blindfold by touching him or her lightly until they are caught. When a child is captured, it’s their turn to be blindfolded.
  • Boccia: a small ball, or jack, is thrown out in front of the children. All the participants then take it in turns to throw larger balls that they try to get as close as possible to the small ball.
  • Croquet: in this precision game, a plastic ball must be guided through a course with a wooden club.
  • Tin can bowling: it couldn’t be simpler. Build a wall out of cans, throw a ball at them – and whoever manages to knock down the most cans wins.
  • Scavenger hunt: parents hide tasks and clues in the garden, then the children try to solve the riddles.

Using the garden’s natural environment

A place to hide, water to splash around in, or a flowerbed of their own to play at being a gardener – that’s all it takes to make the little ones happy. Here are some ideas on how to make the best use of nature’s resources to keep your children busy.

Creating a water oasis

Children love cool water – especially in summer. But water offers even more possibilities. We introduce you to some of them here.

  • A water hose: it can sometimes be so easy to please children. Simply hold the hose vertically in the air and turn on the water. For children this makes a great fountain to cool down under.
  • A raised pond: a conventional garden pond can represent an accident risk for children. The principle of the raised pond is similar to that of a raised bed – it is located quite high above the ground. The advantage is that it gives children the chance to observe water and fish with no danger of falling in.
  • A paddling pool: fun for small children. The top priority here is safety. Put water wings on your child and never leave them unattended. The water level must not be too high.
A little boy is standing in a garden being splashed by water from a hose.

Turn on the hose and your child will be happy – water has a very special power of attraction over little ones.

Creating a children’s flower bed

Giving them their own flower bed is the ideal way to bring your children closer to nature in a fun way. This will allow your child to try their hand at gardening from a young age. They can learn about growing plants and pick what they have grown. Select the location together. The flower bed should be exposed to as much sun as possible and measure approximately one square meter.

It is not at all difficult to create your own: dig the area about 30 centimeters deep with a spade, remove any roots and stones, then fill the hole with plant soil. To make the children’s flower bed look attractive, you can border it with colored stones. Then simply sow and water the seeds. Children can grow vegetables including kohlrabi, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes, or herbs such as cress, basil, mint and sage.

Ensuring safety

As varied and exciting as a garden may be for children, there are also plenty of dangers lurking, which may not be immediately obvious – to you and certainly not to the children. We give you a few important tips on how to make your garden a safe and carefree place for the whole family.

  • Toxic plants: it is a well known fact that children put a lot of things into their mouths and also like to eat flowers and fruits from bushes. That’s why your garden should not contain any plants that are harmful to the child’s well-being. These include wolfsbane, angel’s trumpets and belladonna.
  • Water: an open pond, or even a rain barrel or a bird bath, can become a danger for children – the younger they are, the more likely this is. Consequently, you must secure all water and water containers in such a way that nothing can happen to a child, even when unattended.
  • Tool shed: it’s best not to leave any tools outside, and certainly not any harmful substances such as fertilizers and pesticides, but to store them in a locked tool shed.
  • Playground equipment: you should check the sandbox, climbing frame and playhouse at regular intervals to make sure they are safe.
  • Trees: if your children like to climb trees, make sure that no rotten branches could cause them to fall.
Close-up of a filled water bucket under a tap.

Containers of water are a potential danger for children. Make sure that they are well secured.

Conclusion: a garden for the whole family

If you are the proud owner of a garden, then let your children enjoy it too. Whether you invest in a major purchase such as a playhouse or simply let your children have a small flower bed of their own – there are all kinds of possibilities for adapting a garden to children’s needs that are not at all difficult to implement.

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