If you haven't done so already, now's the perfect time to make your outdoor spaces safe and inviting for your kids and their friends. "Why head to a park or a busy beach to keep your children entertained these summer school holidays when you can create a kid-friendly haven for fun and activity in your own backyard?" says co-founder and creative director of Landart Landscapes, Matt Leacy.
Here are Matt's top tips for kid-proofing your outdoor spaces, without sacrificing style in the process.
Outdoor playground. "Get creative and install your own outdoor playground for the kids. Depending on the age/s of your kids and what activities they like to do the most, installing two or three pieces of play equipment (especially when they are young) into the backyard will help to keep the little ones developing their bodies and minds," says Matt. "You don't need to spend a heap of money on loads of different equipment - it could be as simple as a climbing frame or a sand pit when they are young or a little synthetic grass putting green; a basketball hoop; sand pit; or even a ping pong table as they mature. Obviously, it is ideal to have these items in an area with shade cover."
Pool essentials. "If you've got a pool, compliance with pool fence regulations is essential - regardless of whether you've got kids or not," says Matt. "The rules relating to pool fences vary depending on which state or territory your property is situated in, so if you're unsure of what rules apply to you, get in touch with your relevant local authority or a certified professional for advice. There are specific requirements relating to the height of the pool's fence, as well as the size and height of gaps, the position of the fence, and its overall condition.
Another key safety precaution to take before letting kids take a dip is to check your pool's pH level. "To be safe, a pool's pH reading should be between 7.2 and 7.8," says Matt. "If the pool's pH is very unbalanced and you're unsure how to restore it to a safe level, it might be worth engaging a pool professional to do the job for you."
Cubby houses. "Mounted or stationed cubby houses are another great way to bring engagement and fun into the backyard throughout the warmer months," says Matt. "They are also a good source of sun cover on hot days and are sure to keep the kids entertained for hours on end. In the warmer months, I'd recommend cubby houses with materials that naturally repel heat and keep interiors warm," says Matt. "Think traditional plywood and hardwood for the exterior, and rubber flooring for the inside."
Outdoor furniture. "If you want to encourage kids to spend more time in your outdoor areas, it's important to ensure the spaces are as comfortable as possible, just as you would if trying to make an indoor space more inviting," says Matt. "A key element of this is the types of outdoor furniture you select for the kids. Traditional deck chairs are always a winner, and I also like to incorporate daybeds with comfy cushions and pillows, as well as beanbags and butterfly camping chairs."
Sun protection. "Having shade cover for sun protection is a key aspect of landscaping any kid-friendly outdoor space," says Matt. "No matter how many times you tell the kids to slip-slop-slap, you can't always rely on sunscreen alone to provide adequate protection from the harsh Aussie rays.
"If your outdoor spaces don't have a lot of natural shade, there are a number of non-permanent cover structures that offer sun protection and look great if you mix and match them properly into the specific space. These range from big market umbrellas and canopies, through to retractable awnings and shade sails."