Quite often when I look out into our back garden I'm greeted with not the prettiest of sights: the children's toys. Then I remind myself that soon these will just be a memory and the garden, although all mine, will be quiet.
I don't really resent the evidence of their busy lives strewn around outside. Mostly I offer a silent prayer of thanks for our outside toys for they have kept all five amused for a good many years.
Here's my list of garden toys worth investing in. Be warned: these are not cheap, but when I count how many children they have occupied for how long then I think they are worth every single penny.
- TP Climbing Frame: This is perhaps our most extravagant purchase. We bought it eight years ago when wooden climbing frames were just making an appearance but not in our budget. During that time it has been played on nearly every day. Of course, to get the most value we had to buy some add-ons like the slide, platforms and the twizzler. Ah, the twizzler. It has been making children dizzy nearly every day. There are more natural looking climbing frames on the market (I have to admit, it is a bit of an eyesore) but I'm very fond of our metal and blue plastic one at the bottom of the garden. Apart from the initial cost, these need quite a bit of space.
- Den or Playhouse: We pushed the boat out with this one too and bought a wooden cubby from a DIY store. It has served its purpose well and is played with often. Unfortunately, thanks to my indecision, it's location around the garden has been moved often so is currently awaiting a new spot and a bit of a refurbishment. Neither I nor the small children can wait. For those on a budget or looking for a more natural addition to their garden an ivy-clad wigwam of bamboo poles could work well.
- Sandpit: Where would we, and the neighbourhood cats, be without this classic addition? A cover is a must if next door's Tiddles isn't to use it as a loo or a table sandpit can be bought. Personally, my children like to get into one on the floor and literally feel the sand between their toes. Other considerations include siting, a choice for us between on the patio (and therefore sand in the kitchen) or a rapidly emptying sandpit on the grass. We went for a gritty kitchen floor. Tasteful wooden ones are available but we've opted for brightly coloured plastic with a lid which doubles as a waterway for more brightly coloured plastic in the shape of boats.
- Swing: Now I know some parents are anti these because of the danger of small people walking in front of them. In my experience it is other small people who use them and therefore they don't seem to get up much speed or power so an accidental wallop isn't too dreadful. We've also discovered that children pretty quickly cotton onto the idea of giving the swing a wide berth when it's in use. Our swing is constantly played with and is currently launched at with a bellyflop, allowing the child to "fly" with their hands and feet in the air. The only downside I can see is they need a fair bit of room and it's tricky teaching a child to swing. Or maybe that's just my technique.
- Ride On Toys: These can range from the bright yellow, red and blue cars pedalled by their feet to, a current favourite, a red tractor and trailer. Any outdoor ride on toy is sure to be a huge hit but if you have children close in age it might pay to buy them one each. Unless, of course, you have selective deafness and you, and your neighbours, can put up with the constant arguing over them.
These are just my selection and your list may be different. If there's a must-have that your family can't live without let me know. Apart from trampolines. Unfortunately we don't have the room for one (much to my children's dismay).