Landscaping with a family in mind requires a new approach where practicality and fun reign. However, you don’t need to write off plans for the sophisticated garden of your dreams. Design expert, Pete Tonks explains how certain compromises can create the perfect family garden for now and the future.

Forget the Pristine Lawn Dream (For Now)

Most of us dream of a nice manicured lawn for our garden surrounded by neat shrubs and trees, and this is all well and good. However, soon after the arrival of your little ones, you will begin to cover your lawn with all manner of play-related structures.

This assortment of apparatus is invaluable for the progression and development of our children but it will ruin your lawn, so I would suggest sectioning off part of your garden and finishing it with soft play materials such as bark or recycled tyres.

Accept the fact that your vision for that ultimate lawn with perfect stripes will just have to go on hold for a few years.

The Loading Bay

When considering the external environment, think about placing your garage near to the house and most specifically near the utility/boot room entrance.

A covered link and drive-under bay so that you can quickly and easily unload both the kids and the shopping into the house on rainy days, would be useful too.

Toy Storage

I would also recommend the inclusion of a good, lockable, storage cupboard for toys and bikes that is exclusively for the kids.

You could have this as a lean-to structure onto your garage perhaps, or as part of a shed/outbuilding. This will keep things out of the garage and avoid the risk of scratched cars.

Safety in a Family Garden

For landscaping during the early family years, you should avoid too many changes in levels and definitely keep water features out of the equation. Do not let this put you off incorporating water features and ponds into your project from day one, as the most sensible time to construct them is during the initial house build.

With a bit of forethought, you can work out ways of temporarily covering them over with decking, which can perhaps be removed when the children have grown up a bit and understand the potential dangers.

a family pool by Polypool

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools worry those with young children but, according to Kat Lemon from Polypool, some measures can be taken to minimise the risk of the unthinkable.

“An automatic safety cover is the answer,” she says, “as it is easy to use and can even support a small child or dog walking on it in an emergency.”

She also advises ensuring that there’s sufficient lighting in the pool and designing in adequate depths in parts where a slide or springboard might be included.

Main by AdamKR on Flickr

What tips do you have for designing a family garden?

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