By Holly Crossley published
Our family garden ideas are exactly what you need if you'd like to spend more time with your loved ones outdoors. With a bit of inspiration and creativity, you can easily transform your plot into a place that will tempt your youngest to your oldest out to enjoy the fresh air.
Whether it's garden activities for kids to keep them occupied or a chic seating area to enjoy family meals alfresco, the best family gardens have it all, without sacrificing style.
Paul Schaffer, Managing Director of Plum Play who create fabulous play equipment for gardens, comments on the importance of an outdoor space for all the family. Even in winter, he says, there's nothing better than sticking on the wellies and enjoying the outdoors. The garden is a fantastic space for everyone to get outside and spend quality time together, away from screens. And, now that many places are closed, the garden becomes even more of an important refuge. It also enables children to express themselves and inspire their imaginations, all in a safe way, Paul adds.
Of course, play equipment can be enjoyed by all, but for some, other garden features are equally important. The team at Homebase says, 'A family garden is a space that needs to work hard to meet the wishes of every member of the family – a fine balance between the seemingly conflicting needs of imagination and play for children, privacy for teenagers and relaxation, and entertainment and aesthetics for adults.'
So, to help you get started, we've gathered together our favourite family garden ideas. From uber-stylish outdoor grills to cosy reading nooks crammed with outdoor cushions, read on to get inspired for your own space.
1. Add a multi-purpose fire pit
This gorgeous garden design by Harrington Porter features a comfy corner sofa which surrounds a fire pit.
Due to its ingenious design, this fire pit doubles up as a large table when not in use – perfect for popping drinks on. When it's lit, everyone will love crowding around together to bask in its warm glow, or to toast marshmallows. We've picked out our best fire pits to help you find your own.
A nearby ornamental olive provides a touch of Mediterranean flair, whilst a separate seating area beneath a pergola offers a perfect entertaining space. The design also includes an outdoor projector just out of shot, for cosy film nights with all the family.
2. Use a cohesive blend of materials
This gorgeous family garden by Tom Howard Garden Design demonstrates a brilliant use of materials and space.
The stepping stone pathway is playful as well as practical, whilst borders are accentuated by bright purple alliums and small trees (take a look at our best trees for small gardens to find ones of your own).
The back corner dons a climbing wall – the perfect place for kids to hang out. However, by using a clever blend of materials, it sits cohesively with the chic seating area that's just around the corner.
A stunning example of a space for everyone to enjoy.
3. Try a contemporary style
This family garden by Harrington Porter makes a serious style statement, showing that gardens can be kid-friendly yet still sophisticated.
To start with, the architectural lighting not only adds a stunning feature, but it will ensure the outdoor dining area is enjoyed well into the evening.
Pared-back decking adds to the sleek vibe, and we love the cohesive colour palette of cool grey tones. A playhouse offers a space for the kids to enjoy, as does the trampoline, cleverly concealed behind a screen of panels and clipped hedges. Meanwhile, the artificial turf will keep the lawn looking fresh and green all year round.
If you love the contemporary look, why not take a look at our modern garden ideas?
4. Opt for bright colours and playful shapes
A garden is a wonderful space to get creative, and we love the sense of play this design by Living Gardens evokes.
The long flowerbed is raised just enough for little ones to get involved. Meanwhile, the bold green hue contrasts wonderfully with the vibrant seating spot (take a look at our best bistro sets if you fancy one of your own), and the lighter paving.
The curved shapes and stepping-stone pathway all add to a sense of adventure whilst being ultra pleasing on the eye – a perfect finish to this family-friendly scene.
5. Centre your garden around a lawn
Why not make the lawn the epicentre of your plot? A wide stretch of turf will encourage kids to run, play, or make daisy chains from any which might appear.
Then, arrange your zones around the space. In this design by Melanie Jackson Garden Design, a trampoline is tucked towards the back, out of the way, whilst a summerhouse provides a private retreat away from the house. Clever use of planting creates a soft screen for the patio seating area, perfect for parents in need of some peace.
A smart pathway to the left provides a contemporary touch, and we just love the bright pops of flowers surrounding an apple tree – who doesn't love a home-made apple pie?
6. Choose a chic playhouse that complements the space
A family garden is all about balance. This plot is another example which shows that you can provide something to suit everyone, whilst maintaining a pulled-together look.
We love how the wood-panelled playhouse will offer hours of fun for little ones, without looking out-of-place in this beautifully-designed plot. Tucked into the back corner, it give kids a special space to play, whilst parents can still keep an eye on them from the patio.
Finished with lush borders and a small lawn for lounging on in summer, this design is sure to keep everyone happy all year round.
7. Create a cosy reading nook
Could an outdoor space look much cosier than this sophisticated yet laid-back den? Adults will love spending long, relaxing summer evenings beneath the canopy whilst sipping something cold, whilst kids can cuddle up with a book in their own make-believe fairytale castle. Teenagers will love it too, as it provides a private spot to listen to music, or gossip with friends.
Set up in a wilder part of your garden to enhance the chilled-out vibe – we love how these soft grasses frame the space. Why not try Chris Packham's lawn advice if you're ready to ditch the mower?
8. Provide a wrap-around seating area for all the family
Okay, so perhaps you've coaxed the whole gang out for an evening alfresco. Hoorah! But it's no good if there's not enough comfy seats for everyone to spread out on.
No-one wants to feel left out, or perch on the floor, so bear this in mind when choosing your outdoor seating solution. This built-in structure borders an entire area of this small garden, so there is room for everyone, plus guests.
9. Keep it simple
This fuss-free garden by Harrington Porter has everything a family could need.
A smart adventure playground with bark chip flooring will keep the little ones busy, whilst parents can keep watch whilst lounging on the elevated deck.
A corner sofa beneath a shade sail provides a sheltered spot for everyone to gather together and relax – take a look at our covered deck ideas for more inspiration. With the addition of ornamental trees and pops of colourful planting, this is a well-balanced space that will please children and adults alike.
10. Take dinner time up a notch
There's loads of family-friendly features in this garden, including a shed at the end for storage, a lawn for playing, and a patio area for relaxing. And check out that stylish grill, ready to elevate even a simple outdoor supper with the family.
Cooking on an open flame is bags of fun for adults and kids will love to watch. When the food's prepared, you can still enjoy the grill's cosy warmth into the evening, which will give your patio a boost of welcoming ambience.
Don't forget to jazz up the table too with outdoor accessories. Jamey Seaman from Ikea says, 'Once the cooking is sorted, it's time to gather everyone around the table so they can tuck into the delicious spread you've created. Go the extra mile to make your dining table enticing for your guests, exuding a fun, colourful and summery vibe to create the perfect backdrop for your al-fresco gathering.'
Take a look at our best BBQ buying guide if you're due a replacement in time for warmer weather.
11. Create destination points in a large plot
This large plot certainly has something for everyone. For starters, parents and grandparents can relax around the seating area (decorated by a chic tablecloth, colourful dinnerware, and a lantern), whilst taking in the views.
A vast green lawn then provides tons of space for kids to burn off energy, and note how the climbing frame (positioned just far enough away to deter the noise!) and a sweet little summerhouse are separated to create different destination points. Take a look at our best climbing frame picks to have one of your own.
If you have the space, making separate zones in this way will ensure that everyone has the room they need to enjoy their preferred activities in the garden, undisturbed by others yet still within eyeshot.
12. Up the fun factor with play equipment
A decked-out playground area will keep kids entertained for hours, in fact days! And everyone will love the addition of one of our best trampolines.
'Trampolines are increasingly popular choices for kids to exercise and burn off energy, especially now that things like sports clubs are closed,' says Paul Schaffer of Plum Play. They are a fantastic choice for smaller spaces, and adults love them too! There are also many shapes and sizes available for all types of garden, Paul explains. In-ground ones can feel less imposing as they don't obstruct the view.
But this garden isn't all about the kids! Perfectly in tune with indoor-outdoor living – one of the big garden trends for this year – is the sheltered structure nearby. Stuart Dantzic, Managing Director of Caribbean Blinds, explains how they installed the 'Outdoor Living Pod for a client who required a low-maintenance pergola to seamlessly link their newly built outdoor bar and kitchen area. It provides an all-weather socialising spot for the adults, whilst allowing a full and unobstructed view of the play area.'
13. Zone your seating areas
As we're all spending much more time together, there's no doubt that sometimes a bit of space can do us good. But that doesn't mean to say that only one person can enjoy sitting outdoors at a time.
The solution is to provide multiple options on where to sit. Here, a patio is zoned into two welcoming spots – a sheltered table and chairs, and a relaxed circle of outdoor armchairs complete with brightly coloured stools. A small outdoor kitchen gently divides the area, so everyone can have a bit of peace and quiet, whilst still enjoying the garden.
14. Create comfy chill-out spots with cushions
Turning a corner of your patio into a relaxed place to chill needn't be tricky, all you need is a few outdoor cushions, rugs and a low table. Pop a few potted plants around and you have yourself a great space for everyone to enjoy, which feels less formal than sitting up at a table.
If you love the indoor-outdoor look, then why not take a look our best outdoor rugs and up the comfort factor in your space.
15. Opt for natural materials for play equipment
Choose play equipment made of natural materials and it will sit beautifully within your garden, as suggests Paul Schaffer of Plum Play.
This multi-sensory hideaway includes bamboo chimes, a letter box, and even a planter to stimulate curiosity about how things grow. A brilliant choice for inspiring authentic play and encouraging learning and imagination within nature, whilst keeping your plot looking stylish.
16. Create a grow-your-own space
'Children love growing their own plants and it teaches them so much about science, nature and respect for plants,' says the team at Homebase. So why not give them a space of their own? 'Raised beds made from sleepers are a wonderful way to get them started – it's at just the right height for children and means the plants are less likely to get trampled accidentally,' they say.
'Try growing easy vegetables like courgettes, sweet peas or beans from seed or as tiny plug plants. There are also lots of easy to grow herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) and flowers too (nasturtiums and sunflowers) to add some colour, scent and texture to their sensory plot.'
It's fun for all the family, from the growing itself right through to the harvesting. Plus dinner times will feel even more special if it features your home-grown efforts!
17. Make life easy with artificial grass
A perfect lawn is a tricky thing to achieve. From all the relentless mowing, to tackling a mud patch in winter or that brown, crispy, very-much-dead colour it can go in late summer – it requires committed maintenance to stay looking smart!
So why not opt for something a little simpler? Whether you love them or loathe them, there's no denying that artificial lawns can be a practical choice for some homeowners. So, adults can spend more time enjoying their garden and kids can kick a football around, even when it's raining, without causing any harm.
'With artificial grass, the ease and assurance of knowing the area will be clean and clear from mud and safe for pets and children to play is a perfect solution for any family,' says Jared Gardner from Namgrass.
For another low-maintenance option you could also try our modern paving ideas.
18. String up fun lights
Make your family garden a joy to spend time in with some funky lights. We love these cute toadstool designs that offer a warm and inviting glow. Pop around a fence, window box or one of our she shed ideas to elevate the evening ambience instantly.
Not just for the little ones (although they'll be sure to find them magical!). Whether young or old, fun lights like these will make everyone in the family smile. We've got tons of garden lighting ideas to get you inspired.
How do you create a family garden?
There are a few things to factor in when creating a family garden. For starters, remember that it is an extension of the family home – as suggested by Jared Gardner from Namgrass. 'Priorities may differ but what we do find is that a clean, safe, fun space is what all families seek,' he adds.
The team at Homebase have some fantastic tips for getting started:
- Make a plan. 'The key is to take the time to draw up a plan for the whole space,' they say. 'Although you may not have the time or budget to make all the changes at once, if there’s a plan in place then you can make sure it will all fit together once it's completed.'
- Get everyone involved. Homebase suggests to sit down with all the family and curate a wish list of what everyone wants. This helps every family member feel a part of the process and therefore more likely to then use the finished space.
- Consider what's already there. 'Unless it's brand new or you're planning to get the bulldozers in, it's very likely that there will be features you want to keep and will need to work around – a tree, a wall, a terrace or some existing planting. Existing features can lend the garden character and there are lots of ways to conceal or enhance the utilitarian elements we all need in our gardens.'
- Check the sun and the soil. 'Identify which way is north and the pH and texture of your soil,' they say. 'This will help you decide where to position plants and where to locate sunny seating areas or shady play areas for particular times during the day.'
- Decide how your zones will flow together, and the overall style of your plot. 'For example, would you prefer a simple, contemporary garden, a wildlife garden or a productive kitchen garden?' Homebase asks.
How do I childproof my garden?
There are a few ways to help your garden be more childproof, although it's not always easy!
- Reduce hard surfaces. 'Child proofing anything is an almost impossible mission,' says Jared Gardner from Namgrass. 'However, reducing hard and unforgiving surfaces and edges is a good start. Combining artificial grass with a cushion pad overlay makes a makes a nice soft, safe play area for all ages, he adds.
- Know your plants. Some common garden plants can cause harm when eaten, or from skin contact. Examples include foxgloves, Nicotiana, and the sap of Euphorbia – but there are lots others. The RHS has a helpful list.
- Be careful with water, especially if it's deep. Swimming pools and ponds should all have stable ground around them to avoid accidental falls. Don't leave non-swimmers or young children around them unattended.
- Don't leave fire pits unsupervised. Or any open flames, for that matter. That includes barbecues and pizza ovens!
- Keep things clean. Slippery surfaces are a big risk factor for children and grownups alike, and can often occur on decking or patios. So, be sure to give them a wash if they start to look grubby – our guide on how to clean a patio will help. Also, if you have pets, be sure to keep alert for quick clean-ups!
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day!
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