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Useful And Fantastic: Gardens For Children

Val Yule gives suggestions on how to make a garden child-friendly.

A kindergarten means, literally, a children's garden. The children can grow in it like flowers. There are many ways a garden can be a children's garden.

A place to run and play and ride trikes and splash under a hose on a hot day (if a child loses that, what worth is a computer game to replace that joy) and perhaps have a sandpit with a wee hoose, or a swing or a basketball hoop or a wicket at the back fence. Where a parent might look out a back window, but does not have to be present supervising safety the whole time. Where it is possible perhaps to climb a tree or a shed roof and eat loquats straight off the tree, and in the old days, splash in a concrete laundry tub in the outdoors laundry, in Dad's old shirts and a lot of blue-bag.

A place that has an area about two metres square where the young-uns can do anything they like, with adult-size spades and buckets and trowels, to make layouts and run rivers, and little boats and cars, and make twig houses, and grow this and that here and there.

A place that includes such beauty in its flowers and plants and wildlife that children can go out into it to be consoled, and to have joy, and just to sit. Here a child can learn to be curious about the detail of things, and watch busy little small things, like ants and gnats, and find skinks and tiny frogs. There can be little paths, and surprises round corners, and perhaps growing things that can be picked. And all the time there is what never changes, and what changes all the time, with the seasons, and with new ideas and flowers and dozens of different plants to identify, as a tame and formally landscaped garden usually cannot provide for children.

A family place, for outdoor meals, and mebbe a barbecue or a Chinese cast-iron stove, for baked potatoes and goodies wrapped in foil; for parties; for helping Mum and Dad hang out the washing or dig for spuds or mend the bike or catch harlequin bugs, or weed, weed.

A place where each child has some tree or other perennial that they have planted on a special occasion, and that remains Theirs.

Many children who have everything bought for them that they can dream of in the way of expensive toys will happily share them with the fortunate owners of a children's garden, so that they too can come in and muck around among the layouts and toy railways and miniature jungles.

What is more than money can buy, for children, can cost very little money at all.

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