Garden Makeover – our Grand Designs?

We love our garden – it’s more than half the reason we bought our house – but it won’t win any prizes for beauty.  It’s more of a practical play space at the moment, but even for that purpose there is room for improvement.

This post is a collaborative effort, in an attempt to get all the family’s views about how we would like to transform our garden.

First up, here are Suburban Dad’s ideas.  I love this photo he took last summer of all four children helping him in the garden.

garden one1

The people at Activity Toys Direct have set us a challenge – how would we make over our garden if we had £750 to spend? Well, we can’t make it look pretty in the classic sense of the word “makeover”! Our garden is lots of things: a square patch of overgrown grass flanked by nettles, a playground and vegetable patch to our home-educated children, a source of cooking apples (thanks to the foresight of the first owners) and home to the “talking bush” – the overgrown hawthorn and holly at the bottom of the garden that mysteriously talks to the children whenever daddy is in it.

But, unless we can teach the children how to manicure the lawn (we have at least got them weeding, as you can see from the first picture), or find an extra 3 hours a day, any makeover has to be both practical, and give the children more chance to play. Choosing play equipment is easy – we’d start by getting a trampoline like this one.

We’d also look at the TP pirate swing.  Our TP swing and climbing frame is much loved, as you can see from the picture below, so in a fit of eBay enthusiasm we bought a second frame that has two single swings on it. The result? The second frame is hardly used. Our children love single swings when they find them in a park, but give them the choice and they choose two-seater swings.

garden two2

So what else would we do? Well, we’d put in a path around the edge of the lawn – not for us, mind – for the kids to cycle around it. Once they’ve left home we might turn our thoughts to ornamental borders, but for now we’re delighting in watching them run past the weeds and dig in the mud.

Now here are the children’s ideas

garden design one 1

This is how the conversation went with Tiddler.

Me You can draw a picture of how you would like your garden to be.  You can put in anything you like.

Tiddler (decisively) Blue grass.

Me Okay – and what else?

Tiddler Green sky…and a brown tree with brown leaves and brown apples.

Me Anything else?

Tiddler Nope!

garden designs two 2

The older three children had a few more ideas.  They looked at the website and all agreed that they would like a Forest Lodge and a Zip Wire.  Rabbit had trouble fitting in all her ideas, but they had to fit round a very large central pond with a miniature railway going around it!

garden designs three 3

For Monkey, the tree house was very important.  We have been talking about building one in our big apple tree for a long time, and the children want it to be a meeting place for the Silver Sword club which they have started with some of their friends.

garden designs four 4

Owl’s designs were quite complex, and covered both sides of the paper.  I’m not quite sure how it all fits together but there’s an underground passage involved!

garden designs five 5

They all want chickens, an ice rink, a skate park and plenty of swings and slides, in addition to the tree house, pond and railway.  Their plans may be a little ambitious, but maybe we can make some of them happen.  Probably not the ice rink…

As for me, this is what I love about our garden so far.

garden produce

The amazing bounty is not much down to our own efforts, though we did manage to grow the pumpkins.  We’ve managed more in previous years, and I hope we’ll do better next year.  I’d love to have a row of vegetable beds down the side of the garden, and in my fantasy plan there’s a chicken run at the bottom.  If we could have a path for the children to cycle around, it would double up as an easy access route for vegetable tending and egg collecting.

Whatever we do, there also needs to be room for plenty of this…

oats 2

…and this.

Paint 1

Play will be the main focus for what goes on in our garden for a long time to come.  Quiet play.  Noisy play.  Messy play.  Water, paint, sand, mud, oats and whatever else comes to hand.  I’d really love the children to have a sandpit that’s big enough for them all to get in together.

And somehow, amongst everything else that’s going on, we have to make sure there’s enough space for the children to play football.  I’d like them to have a goal, like this one, to focus their efforts in one direction (preferably not over the fence!)

I do love the railway idea too.  This is the one that has inspired the children, in the garden of some friends from our church.  I hope we manage to build our own eventually – I think daddy would have as much fun as the children.

train garden 1

Whatever we do with our garden in the future, it has to stand up to some heavy usage by lots of children of all ages.  As well as having friends round to play, we also have some of our home education group meetings here and the garden is a wonderful space for them to play and learn in together.  We often have art and craft activities, science experiments, messy play and sports going on outside.  We are also planning to start a Forest School group with our home educating friends.  Initially we will probably be meeting on another family’s smallholding, but if it takes off we would like to be able to extend the number of sessions, and our garden would be needed too.

As you can see, we are not short of ideas.  If we are lucky enough to be chosen for the garden makeover, the only problem we will have is trying to decide between them all!

This blogpost is an entry into the Tots 100/ Activity Toys Direct garden makeover competition.

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