Somewhere between reality home makeover shows and worrying about resale value in five, seven or 10 years down the track, something has happened in many Australian backyards. Despite all the paving, blue fescue, mondo grass, hedges and trendy edible gardens, we’ve managed to make many of our backyards incredibly boring for kids.
It’s no wonder, really, that kids are spending more time in front of the box, or a wide range of other screens.
It seems like everything has just gotten so, so safe, and so, so boring. It was a relief to discover this week when I asked friends and far and wide how they had made their backyards fun, that one replied they had rigged up a treehouse and attached a makeshift flying fox to it. Score 10 points for the kids!
“Play should have an element of risk, it should be challenging,” says Hamish Henry, whose company Peppertown specialises in selling kids’ play equipment. “You’ve got to build that, you can’t be too precious about your children, you’ve got to give them the opportunity to have the odd fall and take the risk.”
Not so much risk they end up seriously injured of course – it’s still sensible to provide soft landings such as sand and bark chips, (there are specialist mulches for play areas) underneath things like tree houses and flying foxes.
But perhaps there is hope – Henry says flying foxes are a big seller for his business, and parents are realising kids need open play spaces where there is active play involved. Think a tree house, or fort style set up, rather than a boxed-in ground-level cubby.
“It could be a raised deck with scramble nets going onto it and cross beams going over the top,” says Henry.
“The opportunity to get it around trees or into trees is important, or to put it into areas where you make children climb and use it as an experiential piece of play.
“What you want is you want to challenge the child, you want to say ‘here it is, go for it’ but also you want the children to play on it.”
“People buy ‘cubby houses’ and give them to the children [but] often they end up as a … pool shed, or another shed in the backyard.”
Matt Leacy, founder of Landart Landscapes, and a host on Channel Nine’s The Garden Gurus, is a big fan of trampolines in the garden – with a twist.
“Trampolines are a must as kids love them and they’re great for encouraging outdoor play.”
Leacy has a rather nice way of saying “but they are a bit ugly”. As he puts it: “Unfortunately they take up a lot of visual space in the garden”.
“Burying them can make them safer and more discreet – but it’s not as simple as just sticking it in the ground,” he says.
Leacy recommends excavating and putting in retaining walls and drainage to bury a trampoline for the long term.
“It does have a price tag but when you way up the possibility of having a trampoline in your garden for 10 years, then cost is worth it,” he says.
Retaining walls can be made from a number of materials including cement or brick. There are also kits on the market that include retaining walls and a trampoline mat.
Are backyards too boring these days? Do we need to give kids more chances “walk on the wild side”?
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.