Having outdoor spaces around your home can mean great fun places for kids (and pets) to play, but generally, this comes at the expense of being able to have a garden that looks pretty. Delicate flowering plants and ornamental trees are usually not great at withstanding boisterous play, and kids and dogs do tend to love digging holes or making big divots in lawns.
1. Fun Vs Beautiful
For some people, the choice is simple, and the fun the younger members of their family have in the garden is far more valuable to them than having a beautiful garden, devoid of random toys, holes, and broken plants. Others try and compromise, by letting their kids and pets play to their heart's content in the back yard, but keeping the front yard as a more out of bounds, ornamental space. There are even times (for example when trying to sell a home), when a good-looking garden might outweigh play time, and kids are taken to the park if they want to have fun outside instead.
These are all valid approaches, but is it possible to have a practical garden that is good for games and play, that also looks nice?
2. Alternatives to Natural Lawns
Lawns are generally the areas where most play takes place, but it can be hard to keep your turf looking nice when it is used as a sports pitch! Artificial lawns are becoming more and more popular, as well as being soft and natural looking, they are also safer for kids and pets and don't end up with weeds and bugs. For older kids, a deck or patio can also be a good alternative to keep the garden looking neat, but they are harder surfaces where younger kids may get scrapes more easily.
3. Robust Plants Vs Ornamental Plants
Mature trees, hedges and shrubs tend to be the best choices around the areas where your kids play. You can check out My Gardening Network for ideas about the types of plants you could consider.
If you have big trees already in your garden, these can be used for play in attractive ways, for instance by building a tree house or making a swing off a large, sturdy branch.
With older kids you can consider cacti, too, which are very resilient – though the spiky varieties are perhaps too dangerous for smaller children.
It can be a bad idea to put more ornamental, flowering plants, or leafy herbs which can be fragile, on the borders of your lawn area or anywhere else where they are adjacent to where your children play. Instead, add color with hanging baskets, window boxes, or self-contained troughs.
If you plan out your garden so that the most delicate plants are out of harm's way and the features included for your kids, such as tree houses and swings, blend into the natural look of the garden, there is no reason why you can't have a thriving, pretty garden as well as happy kids!