This post is by regular contributor Kate Fairlie of Picklebums.
It is great for kids to get outside and play in the garden but it’s even better when they can play with the garden! Including plants in your garden that are suitable for kids to use in their play is a great way to encourage them to be outside – playing, interacting and learning with nature.
Before planning what to plant you’ll need to consider if your children have any allergies or are sensitive to pollens. You also need to avoid plants with large spikes or prickles and make sure that what you plant is not poisonous. Think about all parts of the plant, leaves, roots, sap, berries, etc and try Google to find a list of poisonous plants common to your area.
Allowing kids to play with plants will mean setting a few ground rules in the beginning. Even very young children can be encouraged to take only some of the flowers or leaves for their play rather than stripping the whole plant and including children in the planting and care of the garden is a great way for them to learn to respect plants.
Here are some ideas of what to plant in your playful garden…
Vines and Creepers
Including some hardy vines and creepers in your garden will provide an endless supply of crowns for kings, fairies and the like. Try Star Jasmin or Hardenbergia/Coral Pea .
My kids spend endless hours in the back yard concocting potions from plants, water and goodness knows what else! Plants with an interesting scent from flowers or leaves are always lots of fun in potions. Some suggestions are Mint (grows like a weed so the kids can pick as much as they like), Lavender and Pineapple Sage .
Plants with Flowers
Making daisy chains or just picking a bunch of flowers to brighten someone’s day is a simple, lovely way for kids to interact with the garden. Choose some hardy flowering perennials that take little maintenance and also annuals that easily self seed each Spring. Some suggestions are:
- Perennials – Daisies and Geraniums
- Self seeding annuals – Cosmos, Forget Me Nots, Calendula, Nasturtiums and Borage
Plants You Can Eat
There is no better way to teach children where food comes from than growing it themselves. Plus it’s loads of fun to collect up little stashes of home grown goodness to snack on in the cubby house or feed to your soft toys. Choose easy to grow fruit or veggies that you know your children enjoy, beginning with those your kids can eat right of the plant for fast snacking while playing. Suggestions include:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sugar snap peas
You can find more kid friendly food garden ideas here.
Weird and Wonderful Plants
It’s always fun to plant a few strange and interesting things if you have the space. Weird and wonderful plants can spark a child’s imagination and provide a little extra magic to the garden. Gourds come in lots of strange shapes and sizes and you can dry them to make all kinds of interesting things. Popping Corn is great, allowing children to grow and pop their own corn!
Plants You Can Hide In
A cubby house is one of the best backyard play areas you can invest in but if you don’t have one you can always grow one! As simple as a circle of sunflowers or a creeper growing over an arched tunnel, hiding among the plants is lots of fun. You could try:
- Giant Sunflowers – plant in a circle to make a hiding spot
- Climbing Beans – set up a teepee support and grow a bean cubby
- Vines and Creepers – build an arched tunnel and grow evergreen creepers over it for a more permanent cubby house
Even if you don’t have a garden, many of the smaller, playful plants will grow in pots on a window sill or balcony so there is no reason why everyone can’t enjoy playing with plants!
Do you include playful plants in your garden?