We have a typical London garden meaning that it is scarcely bigger than a postage stamp, but it is outside, it is safe and it is ours and despite living in London, just a few minutes’ walk from a tube station it is strangely quiet. In fact, right now all I can hear are the birds singing and my children playing. It has to be said that all most people can hear are our children playing – sorry about that! Anyway the point is that the garden is small and we have a constant shall we move debate as a result, but we have a huge common and woodland just a couple of minutes away (again unusual when living in London). Where we live feels like a little village a lot of the time as long as you don’t stray down to the hectic main road. So we stay with our small garden and have had to be creative with developing ways to make a small garden fun for kids.
Here are my top 11 ways to make a small garden fun for kids:
- Use tunnels (play ones rather than just letting the kids loose with a shovel), tents and soft play blocks to create an obstacle course and time the kids completing the course. They can race one another or just the clock
- Use the soft play blocks and tents to make barricades; split into teams and grab the water balloons
- Maximise space by building or buying a playhouse. Ours is elevated from the ground so that we could fit in a sandpit underneath and a place to store the bikes, which over time may be converted to a reading den. My husband designed and built this, which was a great deal cheaper than buying one, and the kids just love it.
- Build a den, get out some books and have a reading session. We take blankets and cushions to make our dens cosy. The den can be simple – just chairs and sheets. They don’t need anything complex. Our kids love it.
- Chalk drawing on patios. Chalk drawing is a great way to let littles get creative outside, but also to sneak in a bit of letter writing practice. The best part of this is of course that unless you have the queen coming to visit there is no tidying up required you can just leave it until it rains
- Make an outdoor kitchen corner and get imaginations firing. Developing vocabulary around home items forms a part of the early year’s curriculum so this is a great way to get toddlers started with this. Our children turn the kitchen into a restaurant or pretend to make a picnic
- If there were one product, I would recommend parting with cash for if you have a small garden it would be a canal system – this has been the best value toy that we have possibly ever bought. It is perfect for imaginative play and letting them play with water on those days were it is warm, but not quite warm enough for the pool. Recently our boys have combined this with their playmobil pirates for literally hours of fun
- If you don’t have space for a sandpit a bit of kinetic sand (which you can make yourself) and a builders tray works just as well. We have a sandpit, but the fact that you can build out of this sand means that our kids often request to use this
- Builders tray activities – there are so many, but here are a few quick ideas:
Dinosaur world – sand, rocks and foliage along with toy dinosaurs
Water play – either for splashing or for seeing what floats
Paint and Flour mixing – fun, but oh so messy
Ice cubes with toys hidden – great sensory experience
- Bug Spotting – we have fake grass now so this is a bit trickier, but a recent caterpillar infestation did give them a great entertainment. I was less thrilled!
- Wacky Races; our space is too small for running races, but throw in a space hopper, a ball to dribble around cones or an egg and spoon and you have got some small garden fun
What would I do if I had a bigger garden? If it was huge I would have a swimming pool. Dream, dream, dream, dream…. Mrs Mummy Harris also has a small garden and a great wish list which could be great ideas for those of you with bigger patches of lawn.
In the meantime I will look on the bright side; the great thing about a small garden is that it is easy to take care of so there is more time to be out there enjoying it and you can always see all the kids so you know what they are up too! Oh, I do love a silver lining…. Looking at our garden, I would never have thought that four children could have been entertained in such a small space and yet in the holidays they spend hour upon hour out there.