Make a Small Garden Work for a Family

I live in London and like many people in our lovely city I have a small garden.  We are very lucky to be able to have any outside space in this super expensive city so I am not having a moan, but as our four kids get bigger it gets harder to make the garden be a space that works for the whole family.  We happen to live close to some great open spaces, but since we do have a garden I also want it to be somewhere that we can spend time and enjoy being outside together in an environment where everyone is enclosed and safe – sometimes this mummy needs a break from counting to four and looking in four different places at once! So we have been thinking of ways to make a small garden work for a family. 


small garden ideas

I have written before about fun activities that you can do even in a small garden, but now as we head into spring I am thinking more about changing the layout of the garden and creating some more permanent spaces that we can use so that our small garden can be enjoyed by husband and I, but still be somewhere that the kids can let off steam and burn off some of that energy.  There isn’t enough space for lots of running so I am thinking climbing and swinging may be the answer…


We already have a fab playhouse that my husband built whilst on paternity leave so the children have a raised platform with a ships wheel, a house where they have a small table for drawing and a Little Tykes toy kitchen and play food.

I think creating a structure that creates another level is a great way to make a small garden work for a family as it simply creates more space and what goes up must come down so we have also added a slide. I am also think that now the kids are getting older we could add a rope climb as an alternative way of getting up to the playhouse, but my lot might still be too crazy for ropes!!

Top Tip if you have a small garden – make a slide easily removable.  If we are having a grown up party we can take it away in under 5 mins so that the garden space is increased and we can have a grown up space. 

If your kids are younger I would recommend a sand pit and we have one underneath the playhouse, but this is about to leave the building as the kids are getting to big for it and they just throw the sand everywhere at this stage and fight about who should be using what spade so I am thinking lets save sand for the beach…


This will leave us with space under the platform and if you have  small garden you will know the feeling of not wanting to waste any space so I am wondering about maybe turning this area into the kids den?  We make a lot of dens using chairs and blankets and they love a play tent and if your kids like this too an idea for creating a different play zone for them would be to make a semi permanent den.  To do this you could just get oil cloth from the local sewing machine company and use stick on velcro to attach it to the desired area.  That way it could be taken down easily or perhaps one side removed when it was very hot, but be a space where one or more children could do something quiet.  I am thinking of getting some outdoor bean bags to put in there and have it be a reading nook for the summer or perhaps sometimes I will set up an activity in there for one of the children.  I don’t know about you, but my kids sometimes need to get away from their siblings and have some time to themselves so I think creating a den area will be a great solution.  Hell I might even end up hanging out in there during the summer holidays!


Our next project is going to be taking down this shed and replacing it with an activity area for the kids so we can burn off some of their energy!

small garden

We have other storage and if we are honest we probably don’t need most of the crap that is in there.  Some of the paint is probably several years old and probably no good so it is time to reclaim the space.  The plan is to put down Play Bark and pad out the brick work close by so that we can make it safe to either install a small climbing frame, climbing wall or monkey bars.  To make a small garden work for a family there has to be some activity for them to do other than run as that would be over very quickly!  So I am thinking climbing would be great especially as they seem to spend their lives trying to climb the Acer which really can’t take the punishment.


I need some other ideas to help me plan how I can improve our small garden and make it work for our not so small family so I reached out to the blogging community and as always they came through with some great ideas for me and hopefully for you too.

Layla Preston from the Motherhood Diaries suggested a mini climbing frame or trampoline.  I always thought our garden might be too small for a trampoline, but after Layla’s suggestion I did some research and found some great options and many of them can be used by adults for exercise too making that small garden work even harder.

Layla also has a great post on Outdoor Activities for kids

The idea of urban gardening came up from a few sources and again I didn’t think that it would really be possible in small garden, but here are some fab ideas for making it work.

Jennie Jordan from Rice Cakes and Raisins suggested using window boxes for planting herbs and vegetables as a great activity for the children and great way of saving space.   We have 3 unused window ledges so this would work brilliantly

Meanwhile Katie Davies (Mummy’s Diary) suggests that you can even do a bit of gardening with a concrete yard and has bought a trug so that her kids can have their own little flower garden.

Image may contain: one or more people, plant, flower, child and outdoor

I love this idea as we have fake grass and bark in all of the beds so there isn’t really anywhere for the kids to get their hands dirty and they do miss that.  Having a quick look you can get trugs for as little as £5 and they come in all colours, shapes and sizes.  Who knew!  I think these will look great and will make a fab summer project to do with the kids so thanks Katie.

Finally Veronica Mitchell (My Parenting Journey) has used sandboxes and vertical plant holders to create a small herb and chilli garden so that they had edible plants.  She also suggests making a mini outdoor play area with the planting area so that they can learn about plants through play.  The vertical plant pots look like an amazing idea and would definitely make it easier to plant in a small garden as they won’t be taking up floor space.



I hope you have got some good ideas to make a small garden work for a family here as I know I have during the research for it.  I can’t wait for the weather to get slightly better now so that I start knocking down that shed, throwing out the rubbish and creating some vertical planting. Thanks to the other bloggers who contributed to this I am definitely going to be trying out your ideas.  Finally please do comment if you have any other ideas or know of any small climbing frames that might work for me as everything I see online is huge!!



24 thoughts on “Make a Small Garden Work for a Family”

  1. Hanging baskets you can grow strawberrys and tomatoes. you cn also do lasagna pots meaning you can have bulbs coming up at different times. Wine boxes for growing lettuces and yes use the wall space and fences so many products around. good luck sounds great fun #dreamteam

  2. We have a very small London garden. It’s taken me years to finally get round to liking it! Like you, we are surrounded by green space, but there’s nothing like your own little patch is there? I absolutely second getting a trampoline. We got rid of our shed and put up a good sized one. Its a fab energy burner #dreamteam x

  3. The photo of your kids planting flowers is adorable! You certainly did find ways to make a small garden work for your family. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Lots of genius ideas. We are in the process of doing our garden and it’s taken ages just to hack back the really overgrown brambles. We moved in last year. We’ve actually got an extra 3 foot of garden by doing it.

    1. It does take time. Our garden was a shambles when we moved in. Previous owners apparently didn’t through anything out they just buried it in the garden including the kitchen sink… literally #DreamTeam

  5. Love the idea of creating multiple levels for play areas. But I also think it’s important for kids to play with dirt and to understand where there food is coming from – so incorporating a kids garden is up there 🙂 #dreamteam

    1. Totally agree. We are lucky that my parents live near by and have an allotment so my kids get to do lots of digging there and grow their own veggies – they won’t eat them but they grow them 😉 #DreamTeam

  6. I am totally with you on the removal of the garden shed. We are about to do the same thing as it really can become a place to store loads of junk in. I know my husband is dreading having to tackle it though but the extra space will be so nice. I am also a big fan of using raised beds for planting flowers as we don’t have much space in ours either for planting out. I guess it is all about trying to make the best use out of what you have! #dreamteam

    1. We are totally procrastinating about taking down the shed as clearing it out will be a right mission, but I think it will make such a difference. Thanks for being part of the #DreamTeam

  7. Love the idea of taking out the shed – especially if it is filled with stuff you don’t really need! I love to downsize my stored items each year, looking over the items and ridding myself of unused stuff. #DreamTeam

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