Is your garden child-friendly? It's lovely to see your little ones playing in the sun, but just like any space - indoors or outdoors - it's best to make sure everything is safe before curious minds and grabbing fingers start exploring.
We've enlisted the help of garden designer and author of '101 Things For Kids To Do Outside' and '101 Brilliant Things For Kids To Do With Science’, Dawn Isaac, to advise anyone wanting to child-proof their outdoor space for summer.
Choose grass or wood
Dawn says: "There is little to beat grass when it comes to toddlers – it’s soft and natural. Similarly, wooden surfaces are more forgiving than stone, but I would only ever add them on very sunny south facing gardens as they will become dangerous and slippery in shady areas. Gravel or chippings are best avoided as toddlers are likely to pop stones in their mouths."
Think about artificial grass
Dawn says: "I’m a big fan of artificial grass – not only is it a soft surface, but it’s also low maintenance; a huge benefit when you’re busy with small children. You can install a safety surface underneath to help cushion falls and this is a grass that won’t sulk if it’s in a shady area or under trees."
Include safe water features
Dawn says: "Most parents would rather be without a pond, after all, we have enough to worry about without adding to our stress list. However, kids do love water so it’s worth including it in some way. An old butler sink with plug under an outdoor tap can mean hours of fun and splashing around but you can take away the plug whenever you’re not around to supervise.
"Also, water features with reservoirs safely hidden underground can be a brilliant source of play – perhaps a dome with water flowing over the top or even better, a rill along the ground (a rill is an attractive, shallow, straight water feature) where homemade mini boats can sail.
"For older children, there is nothing I love better than creating a mini-pond. Simply take an old plastic storage container – around a 45-litre size works well – sink it into the ground, add stones and tiles to create a ramp for creatures to escape, fill with rainwater, add one or two oxygenating pond plants and disguise the edges with some stones. As long as there is some planting around the outside to give shelter to visiting wildlife you will soon find the mini pond becomes home to all sorts of creatures from pond skaters to frogs."
If you don't have time to create a water feature, there are lots of summer toys that will create hours of outdoor fun, like this bubble fountain, or a paddling pool. Plus, don't forget their swimwear!
Avoid toxic plants
Dawn says: "If you have babies and young toddlers then you'll know that they explore the world by putting things in their mouths. Because of this, we have to watch them closely and many parents would feel safer having nothing remotely toxic or poisonous in their garden. It's important to teach children to be careful in the garden – to never put anything in their mouth before they check with a grown-up and to always wash their hands after they’ve been playing in the garden. This approach means they are equally savvy when out in nature or in someone else’s garden who may be less child-aware with their planting. Having said that there are one or two plants which are so toxic I would never plant them – laburnum and monkshood for example."
If you're teaching your kids to help out in the garden, you can get them their own plastic plant pot set or their own bucket and spade and they'll love getting stuck in with planting and nurturing their plants.
Encourage your kids to explore
Dawn says: "Make sure they have spaces of their own – preferably at least partly hidden from grown-up view where they can create their own worlds with their imagination. It doesn’t need to be anything special, my own children took over a small dark area behind the shed and turned it into a secret den; far more exciting than the carefully painted playhouse a few feet away!"