When creating indoor spaces, whether its remodeling or simply redecorating, homeowners often think about their furry and not-so-furry family members. Like skipping the coffee table of your dreams because the corners are too sharp or adding gates to steps. When designing the outdoor spaces of your home, the same ideas apply, for both safety and function.
Just like indoors, safety features usually look best when they're incorporated during the design phase with some touch ups post development. So how do you know which safety features you will need? Think of it broken down into feet, hands, and eyes.
Start with the most obvious, consider the ground and everything on it. Tripping hazards first - and not all of them are so clear. Sprinklers are prone for busy feet (even for adults!). Consider either low level ones or place markers near them (e.g. light that is obvious during the day and night). Speaking of light, outdoor lighting that is discreetly placed within grass is great for beauty, but not for kids that use that space for playing. Make these lights obvious or place them alongside edging (of plants, walkways, house, etc.).
Other hazards for little feet include unleveled grounds, rocks, and hoses that aren't carefully placed. Basic cautions to take include pool covers and proper lighting. A common rationalization parents might make include thinking that you'll put something away each time to avoid hazards ... like the hose. The caution here to take is considering ease of proper placement after each use - for each person. And if this means adding in features, such as installing a second hose on the other side of the house or an automatic closing gate around the pool, do it.
Now on to everything your little ones touch. Small stones (gravel) are a major choking risk. Depending on the age of your kids, consider skipping loose rocks and use an alternative (bluestone is a beautiful choice for walkways). Mulch can be just as much as a nuisance, if its placed in areas in which you know your kids will enjoy playing in.
As for heights, consider all things within arms reach for your kids - always at least 6" higher or more than your youngest child's height. This would potentially include items placed on patio tables, railings, and even shed door knobs!
While thinking through all the areas that your little ones can touch, consider different seasons and temperatures of your material selections. Some items get dangerously hot during the high heat days of July. Avoid burns by placing these heat sensitive items in shady areas or use alternative materials.
As for your children's eyes, think of the directions that winds blow throughout the year. As an example, a popular feature around a fire pit often includes built-in seating. Allow room for non built-ins so that children enjoying the fire can move away from smoke (depending on the direction of wind).
Most importantly, consider your kids personalities. Design, or allow your professional to design, spaces that not only adults will enjoy, but spaces that you know your children will love. By creating areas specifically developed for your children, you'll help prevent them getting into places they shouldn't be in!
-Image Flickr David D