Tag Archives: Child safety

Bark Rubbing, Moats and Other Half Term Mayhem

It’s half term, so I’ve run away.  Don’t get me wrong – I have taken the children with me (social services might have had words otherwise). However, I am a wimp and I’ve done my usual trick of bolting to my parents when faced with a week of uninterrupted childcare.

There is also the added attraction of a huge garden for Ava and Oscar to run wild in.  This does though include a moat, which is what I call a water feature with serious safety issues, especially given Oscar’s dubious sense of balance.  The result is, whenever the kids decide to go out, I have to don wellies and coat and join them.

After countless games of hide-and-seek – where I have to hide, yet still be able to watch Oscar and large bodies of water – I thought we should try something a little different.  So today, before lunch, we went bark rubbing.

Ava and Oscar bark rubbing

Ava and Oscar bark rubbing

It’s such a simple thing to do – you only need crayons and paper – yet my 5 and 3-year-old were surprisingly taken with the whole exercise.

We also made sure we identified the trees as we went.  As well as noticing the difference in bark – from a relatively smooth beech to the fissures of an oak and the white of a silver birch – I pointed out the variety of bud shapes and the children looked for more clues on the floor such as the walnut shells, acorns and the very distinctive oak leaves.

We are going to paste the rubbings into the children’s garden journals this afternoon, but not before we test their grandpa on his bark identification.

You could also cut the pieces of paper into leaf shapes and make a tree collage from the various bark rubbings or even use them to start your own tree guide.

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Filed under Outdoor gardening projects

The Perils of Designing on Your Doorstep

I’m guest blogging today on Landscape Juice, so click through if you want to find out how I’ve landed myself with the trickiest of design jobs – a garden with no space and even less budget for my son’s pre-school…

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Filed under garden design

Let a killer into your garden

As a garden designer, I’m always being asked by clients to ‘make sure there are no poisonous plants’ in their plans.  Unfortunately, the client is king, and I feel I’ve little option but to tug my forelock and comply.  But what I really want to do is scream, “Why?  Do you think your children are stupid?”

 

I know it’s harsh, but I have spent hours revising planting plans because some overcautious parent is paranoid that their child has nothing better to do in the garden than munch on the flowers.

 

Guess what – windows can be dangerous.  Children could decide to jump out of them.  So, do we build only bungalows, or make upstairs bedrooms, windowless boxes?  No.  We explain the risks to our children and tell them not to do it.  We even, very radically, decide our children might have a modicum of common sense and not hurl themselves towards the street.

 

I have always included toxic plants in my own garden.  Not because I harbour filicide tendencies, but because some of my favourite plants and most useful species happen to be would not be good on toast in the mornings.

 

I don’t want to dig up my autumn crocus or daffodil bulbs, nothing provides such a wonderful, dark backdrop as a yew hedge and why on earth should I be without my dicentra, lupins and foxgloves. Yet all these plants have toxic and potentially fatal elements.

 

However, I believe it’s easy enough for us to teach even the youngest children not to put anything in their mouth from the garden.  What’s more, it’s useful for children to know that there are risks and dangers in life and learn to manage them appropriately.

 

I’m glad to see there are signs of attitudes changing.  In April last year, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) called for the introduction of specially made “wild” areas where children could wander around and take risks.

 

Then, last month, a guide from Play England went so far as to say “some mildly poisonous plants or berries offer both good and bad risks and that “it is almost unheard of for children to die or be permanently disabled from eating poisonous plants”.  However, they also acknowledged that “this has not stopped some local authorities and others from removing traditional plants from parks and public spaces.”  So the battle between common sense and the over-anxious element looks set to continue.

 

Right, I’m off to plant some deadly sweet pea seeds.  I may be some time…

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