To guarantee optimum child friendly fun during the summer, you need a safe environment, so check that all garden fences are secure around a play area, and cover any ponds and water features to prevent accidents.
An Open Space
The most versatile play area is also the cheapest: a flat, open area where children can play, run, ride bikes and be themselves.
Concrete, pebbles and excessive foliage or trees won’t allow children to make the most of an outdoor space and could result in a few nasty lumps and bumps. However, some climbable trees are great and will provide shade on hot days.
And with space comes the ability to install play equipment…
Not only are trampolines fun, they are also great for encouraging your children to see exercise as fun.
They will develop your child’s balance and motor skills, which are very important learned sequences of movements associated with agility, strength and co-ordination.
Trampolines have grown in popularity during recent years. Round or square, they should be made of the most robust materials and, when used by small children, enclosed by safety netting.
Mini-trampolines are suitable for toddlers and young children, they can even be themed as a 'Pink Palace' or a 'King's Fortress'. The 'Funclosure' is a colourful blow-up structure that sits on a trampoline with the children inside.
Bigger children, and adults who think they are still big kids, are better suited to larger 8ft – 14ft models with heavy duty frames, springs and padding on which they can throw tucked, piked and straddle shapes as if a gold medal depended on them.
Kids have a great time playing in sand. It allows them to explore their creative side as they dig, build and make shapes.
The simple things in life are sometimes the best and you can't get anything much simpler to play in than a timber framed sand pit. In this electronic age, isn't it great that youngsters can still get hours of entertainment from sand, a bucket and a spade.
This is also true of a sand and water table or sand picnic table that can provide fun and active play and are perfect if there is only a small garden or balcony.
Swings, made from timber or metal, range from sets suitable for babies and toddlers with a moulded seat and leg bracket through to those with multiple seats and gliders.
A traditional wooden framed single or double seater takes about an hour to assemble and comes with anchor points, cross beams for stability and soft feel ropes.
Then the choice widens to those made from substantial wooden poles to others that might be called activity centres, boasting climbing ropes, ladders, wave slides, fireman's poles, monkey bars even a 'rock wall' and cargo net. Enough activity going on there to keep a cub scout pack fully occupied.
For toddlers, don't forget one of the oldest, simplest yet best loved designs, the see-saw. Still around after all these years, a see-saw with easy grip handles and plastic seats and that spins through 360 degrees will give young children hours of enjoyment.
Play centres allow children to explore their independence in a controlled and safe environment. They can use their imagination to create various play scenarios, fuelling creativity and innovative thinking.
If you can’t afford to buy one, think about converting a small shed into a playhouse. When the children outgrow it, you can revert it back to its original use!
Making the most of your outdoor space will ensure that your kids have a fun-filled summer, exploring their environment, socialising and gaining new skills as well as friends. What more could your kids ask for?!
Other play equipment includes a toddlers' 'rock wall' with multi-coloured hand and foot grips, climbing net, play den, 4ft slide and play deck all in one structure. There are further variations including imaginative play centres with nautical themes that are ideal for ocean going role play.
Mud kitchens have grown in popularity as they are so easy to create and offer learning as well as entertainment for your children.
Getting your children to play outside is a huge benefit and mud kitchens can be very simple affairs kitted out with old bowls and containers of different shapes and sizes which will soon be full of soil, sand and water.
Utensils and pans can be hung next to the kitchen if located near a fence or wall. Shelving would also be a good idea, so this semi-enclosed space will start to resemble a real kitchen which will encourage the children even more.
To avoid damaging the lawn too much, a permanent area for the kitchen might be established with a decking floor.
Normal kitchen utensils should be adequate, make sure there is a good range, not only containers but scoops, moulds and whisks. Jam jars are useful and small bowls for presentation.
It's essential to have a supply of water, and ingredients for any mud pie will include plants, gravel and pebbles, so make sure there are plenty around and any prized plants are out of bounds. You can also perhaps supply colourings and other items that can be added and mixed.
Working surfaces must be at a convenient height so that children of different ages can easily create their concoctions.
Your children will learn lots from this process and interaction with others. They will exercise their imagination, learn new vocabulary, observe how cooking transforms ingredients and a whole lot more while thoroughly enjoying themselves.
All this equipment is designed with children's well being in mind. You can rest assured that they are enjoying their free time, interacting with their friends and learning all the time in the safety of your own garden.