Chances are, if you live in a high rise building in a big city such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, or New York City it means you don’t have back door access to a backyard. You may not even have access to parks and other green spaces. For some people this might not be a concern, but if you have children they don’t have the ability to easily get outside and actively run around enjoying nature. Fortunately, families that have rooftop gardens can amend this by incorporating some child-centric space into their garden designs to give their kids room to play and enjoy the outdoors.
Adapting a rooftop garden to make it kid friendly doesn’t have to be time consuming, or cost a lot of money. Some simple changes can be made to easily transition the existing space into an area that will be suitable for children and adults alike. Keep in mind the ages of the children and their interests to create a space that is practical and engaging.
Perhaps one of the first and most important things to do, is to make sure there are some kid-friendly, fast growing plants in the rooftop garden for them to enjoy. They can either be added to existing planting beds or put into separate pots or beds of their own. This will allow the kids to fully experience the growing process, and see the changes as a plant goes from a seed or seedling to a fully mature — sometimes harvestable — plant. Not only will they enjoy seeing the plant grow, but it will be a learning opportunity as well.
Some fantastic examples to add to the garden are flowering plants such as marigolds or sunflowers and vegetables such as snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and lettuce. All of these plants grow quickly, and are relatively easy in terms of their maintenance. An added bonus with vegetables is being able to enjoy some fresh home-grown produce in your kitchen while showing your kids how food is grown (that it isn’t just purchased at the grocery store)!
Besides having kid-friendly plants, create an activity area to keep the kids occupied and engaged when on the rooftop. Sometimes attention spans are short so it’s beneficial to have more than one thing for them to do. If your rooftop garden focuses more around growing your own produce give them a small garden bed to dig in or plant their own plants/flowers and their own watering can to help water plants.
Other options instead of letting them dig in the garden beds is to give them a sandbox or sand and water activity table to play with, or adding a small swingset or play structure to play on. Activities such as these, especially ones that aren’t allowed inside the house, will give them a reason to want to head outside more often.
Having furniture suitable for children is important too, so they have something that is durable as well as something appropriate for their size. If you choose to buy chairs or benches with cushions, look for heavy duty, outdoor fabrics that can be laundered if they get dirty, or plastic surfaces that can be wiped down easily. Having items that clean easily will be especially important if the kids are playing in the planting beds! A kid sized table or even a coffee table they can use gives them a space to sit and eat, or work on small craft projects if you are busy gardening or entertaining friends and family.
Having your own rooftop garden is a luxury afforded to some inner-city dwellers, giving you a personal, tranquil space to spend time outside. When necessary it’s easy to make some simple changes to incorporate kid space into your rooftop garden making it family friendly. Add some fast growing plants they can watch, create an activity area specifically for them, and make sure furniture is accommodating and easy to clean — simple changes that make the space accommodating for all ages.