It occurred to me recently that I needed to make my gardens kid friendly so my grandchildren can enjoy them as much as I do. They love my backyard, but my repeated “don’t step on the flowers” as they explore was starting to sound like a broken record. So, I decided to make the gardens kid friendly.
Pathways of Stepping Stones
The idea for pathways of stepping stones weaving throughout my gardens sprouted in my brain when a gardening client asked if I had the use for several stones she had left over from a patio project.
I also have some bricks that were previously used to edge my backyard gardens. I decided years ago that I prefer a more natural edging as the bricks made it difficult to mow the lawn right up to the garden edge. Grass also (annoyingly and time consuming) grew in between them. The bricks had also shifted over the years so were no longer nice and even, a sore spot with me.
A few seasons in and they had to go. Instead of digging up the bricks at the time, I left them in place and extended my gardens in width. Now I am digging them up to use for the kid-sized stepping stones. These are in their new places, just waiting to be sunk into the ground for stability…
I asked my almost 8 year old granddaughter if I should paint the stepping stones a bright colour so she, her brothers and cousins can see them better. She voted no, telling me it is more fun to discover them.
I added the pathways at the beginning of the season when perennials are small. This way I can visualize the spacing needed to create the meandering effect I desire. For example, in the photo above, you can see the lily of the valley pips poking through the ground. In a few weeks time the plantings will have filled out and the paths will look like they have been there forever.
Along with the pathways of stepping stones, I created landing pads in specific spots. There is one in front of each birdbath for little feet to step on while filling the birdbath.
There are now also several landing pads a foot back from the edge of my pond, so my grandkids know to stop there. At least most of them do. No names will be mentioned, but one little boy likes to push the boundaries and get as close as he can.
Plants Surrounding the Stepping Stones and Landing Pads
To keep the look of the stepping stones and landing pads as natural as possible, I placed them in the middle of low growing, resilient ground cover. The pathways now wind throughout my back gardens, perfect for exploring and wandering. They also create access for me, the chief gardener, to weed, plant, amend soil, mulch etc.
The stepping stones and landing pads are also located well away from any fragile or thorny plantings. For their safety and my stress level. Again, some of the grandchildren care more about avoiding prickly things and treating the plants with a healthy respect, others run through the paths full steam ahead.
Another way to interest your kids (or grandkids) in gardens is to add whimsical touches throughout your gardens. I have several animals/creatures for them to visit; a black bear and heron rescued from a client’s garden (they planned to toss them out) a frog and a rabbit (that has its rear end busted off, but now sits wedged into the soil) are favourites too.
The kids can visit bird houses, bird baths, wind chimes, painted stepping stones, (on my fence like artwork as they were too pretty to walk on) stone pagodas, obelisks, arbours, and more as they wander through my back yard.
I would love to add a large inukshuk and totem pole, somewhere and sometime. And perhaps a small tree fort; I have a spot all picked out in the sprawling branches of an apple tree.