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Phillip Withers

Phillip Withers

July 3, 2013

A garden for a family has to please everyone from dad, who wants a spot to relax and cook the barbie, mum who wants some nice scents flowing from the garden bed and young Charlie who wants his adventure. A standard garden often includes a basic set of requirements such as entertaining areas, service areas, recreation areas, some garden beds, sometimes fruit and vegies, oh and of course paths and a story to link it all together.

It’s with these basic garden elements that as a designer we get to challenge the ordinary, and have a bit of fun with sometimes, especially when thinking of areas for kids. Well, what if we take all these general garden inclusions as mentioned and start to think ‘well how can I make this garden work better for a kid?’ See in this position we have to be able to think about a vehicle where children want to tell their tale, to answer the questions that every bend in the path asks of them as they wander through…

So here’s some ideas to get us on the right track when thinking of some child friendly elements. Why can’t the ordinary clothesline, instead of being the norm, become a spider web that doubles as an artwork that flickers in the winter sunlight so Charlie can be Spiderman every so often?

Imagine a clothesline like a spiderweb

Imagine a clothesline like a spiderweb

Why does the entertaining area need to be square paving? Yes it makes good sense that it contains a good amount of space. But why can’t we mimic the organic shape of the garden or the more natural landscape? Maybe we can have some patterns such as some leaves printed to the edge of the surface that will bring a smile to the viewer and give a child a theme for games to be set around.

Leaf imprints in concrete

Leaf imprints in concrete

I believe the best way we can design to include a child, is to think like a big kid. So what are some key points for a kid? Well here are the words that come to my mind – adventure, imagination, playful, fun and freedom. These feelings are often activated by our senses capturing the imagination of a place. Here we look for sights, sounds, smells and touch to draw us further and further in.

giant alliumWe can also think about the wild side of nature as it also stimulates these senses. Places such as forests, bushland and beaches trigger an emotion for a child, such as “what can I go and find?” It’s raw, it’s real and it’s better then any computer game. I remember as a child there was nothing better then going away for a couple of weeks at Christmas time to the beach and roaming around the rocks and sand dunes for days simply to find a cave that would become our hide out for the rest of the trip. We would gather sticks and rocks that would become part of the day’s games to throw, build or scratch around with.

So with these ideas in mind, we can look to build the adventure back into our own home garden. So how do we do this? Well I think it comes back to our making our basic set of requirements and then challenging them.
Our garden beds need to build up a character or setting

The paths can twist and bend and let you wonder


Our recreation areas can be fun areas to play


Our features can create movement and pleasure


Our fruit and vegies can be entertaining and educational


The garden can have areas that don’t have to be tidy, so they’re ready for adventure.


And we can make a garden that’s fun for everyone….



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Tina brodie
Tina brodie
10 years ago

Hey phil, great piece. Very thought invoking!!
On another note, have you ever thought about getting down on a child’s level to look at what they see? When you do, you notice very different aspects to what an adult sees. I have to do this at work with my room arrangement to ensure we look at it from the child’s perspective. Just food for thought…

Phillip Withers
10 years ago
Reply to  Tina brodie

Hey Tina

Cheers, Great idea by the way! Never thought of that one, Love it! Tipping Im going to have some dirty jeans at the next garden visit though…

10 years ago

What are those purple flowers called? I must have them

Catherine Stewart
10 years ago
Reply to  Dann

Hi Dann – they’re amazing aren’t they? I’ve always wanted to grow them but, sadly, they don’t do well in Sydney. They’re giant alliums which grow well in cool climates.

10 years ago

I’m in Wollongong! It gets cold here. Maybe they should invent cool rooms, the opposite of hot houses….