We are incredibly lucky to live in a London flat that actually has a garden. So I feel guilty that we rarely use it. Tom and I get out every day to the Marshes, or a park, or for a walk by the river, but I very rarely take him to play just in the garden.
One reason for this is access – we live on the first floor, which means we have to go down our very steep, narrow, dark back stairs to get out into the garden. If we want to take any toys out with us, it means taking two trips (one for toys and one for Tom) or being organised enough to pack up a bag. And if we are going to that kind of effort I would rather be getting further away from home.
The other reason is that I find the space, frankly, uninspiring. We are spoiled with so many great green places on our doorstep, so I tend to head for them when planning a trip outdoors. Our garden, on the other hand, is not exactly large. There are some plants, kindly provided by our downstairs neighbour, who is a keen gardener and has over-spilt her own patch into ours. And we have a table and chairs from our last flat. Otherwise, there’s not much to recommend it.
Or so I thought. But after getting locked out of the flat last week (see tomorrow’s post), I realised I had been looking at the space through my eyes rather than the eyes of a toddler. What to me is a small, boring patch of paving, is to Tom a wonderland of things to explore and play with. He doesn’t think it’s boring – it’s small enough for him to feel safe, and big enough to offer plenty of opportunities for exploration.
We went down on Monday afternoon, taking some scoops and stacking cups and a small tub of water with us. I thought we might get half-an-hour before Tom got bored. Not a bit of it. We were still out over an hour later, when the light started to fade, and he was showing no signs of boredom. He’d played with the water and toys, explored the area, then spent ages putting snail shells into different stacking cups and ferrying them around the garden, into the water and out again. In the end it was me who took us back inside – it was getting dark and I needed to make his tea.
So that is all the proof I need. It’s time to invest some effort into making the garden more of a play space for Tom, which I will then be inspired to use on a more regular basis. I’ve already spied out some spare bricks and bits of wood that should make the basis of a mud kitchen. And there must be something we can do with all the tin cans that I’ve been reluctant to throw away.
Anything we do will have to be low-effort, low-cost, and temporary, as we rent the flat rather than own it. So I’m starting a Pinterest board to give us ideas (you can find it here) and would love to hear any suggestions you might have.