There’s so much fun to be had for free in the garden…
It’s so easy to be dismissive of your outdoor space, to look at the pristine spaces of Pinterest and in home magazines and write off your garden as needing serious work before you can really enjoy time out there. I had fallen into that rut myself with a scruffy lawn that won’t grow a patio full of weeds and a broken fence thinking that really before we could utilise it for anything much it’d need a complete overhaul. In an ideal world we’d all have the pristine lawn, fragrant flowerbeds and one of those patios that pulls back to expose a pool – have you seen them, how cool!
However, this isn’t an ideal world and we should realise that any outdoor space is a privilege not to be wasted. With children, in particular, there’s so much fun that can be had for free in the garden if we accept the imperfect and embrace a bit of dirt.
Children love to grow plants and this can be done with as little as an old yoghurt pot and a packet of cress seeds. There are so many old household items that can be recycled to hold plants, old teacups, wellies, broken buckets and plastic tubs, you can even turn old jeans into a planter! A packet of seeds are incredibly cheap, chose things like herbs, fruit and vegetables that will give them the additional fun of a harvest.
Especially fun plants are things like beans that can be grown up things, strawberries hung up high and of course, a firm favourite, sunflowers that they can grow taller than them. If you have space, dedicate them their own little patch it doesn’t need to be perfect, chuck in windmills, fairy houses and the odd old pineapple and mango seed and watch what happens.
Another great use for the garden, especially one that’s not entirely perfect is a place to make a mess. Children love to dig, build and experiment. If you can buy a sandpit, brilliant, but if not create a small area and let them dig there. You could add old pots, pans and plastic kitchen utensils and call it a mud kitchen – I’ve also seen brilliant ones made from old wooden pallets and washing up tubs.
If you don’t fancy DIY, mud or both; why not just take the craft materials outside? Chalk is a winner and washes away with one good shower of rain and we’re not short of those. If a fence is broken beyond repair or fence looking shabby, why not let the kids give it a nice colourful coat of paint. It might not be a perfect job but I bet the colours will be much more cheerful than it’s current state.
For those that really don’t do dirt, there’s always water. A paddling pool will create endless hours of fun but if you don’t have either space or funds a large plastic tub will do the trick. Consider adding bubbles, food colouring and waterproof toys and the kids should be well entertained.
It doesn’t take much for children to create fun games in the garden, a ball, sticks maybe a hoop and/or string and let their imagination run wild. If they need help, suggest obstacle courses, hoopla, targets and high and low jumps.
We love our trampoline for family fun, not only is it great to jump on but provides the base for so many challenge games, it doubles as a den and we’re desperate to get a projector and try it out as a summer film screen as one of our friends says she does. Although they’re not exactly a free way to have fun in the garden they are a great long-term investment. If you have a worn trampoline that needs a bit of TLC, new mats, pads and enclosures can be bought at Big Game Hunters. They also have lots of accessories like covers and tents to bit extend the life of and add an extra element of fun to your existing one.
You don’t need a trampoline to easily create a great garden tent or den. Hang a sheet off the clothes line and peg it out, over a clothes horse or tie a bit of string between two trees. If you have a waterproof tarpaulin to create a place that can be used in all weather it can be especially exciting to camp out while the rain falls around you. Fill your den with sleeping bags, blankets and cushions and maybe decorate with fairy lights for some extra magic. If it’s secure enough or you have a real tent then why not allow the children to sleep in it. At least take out a picnic for some extra special al fresco dining.
Since I’ve accepted my garden with all its imperfections it has become a much more enjoyable place and the options for fun family time there seem endless. I’d love to hear your favourite garden games and uses for your garden, any great ideas we should try?