Pre-Small we had spent considerable time and effort on our small garden making it the perfect environment (for us). Outside the back door was a paved patio with a small waterfall tumbling down over a fake pebble river bed into a pool. Stone steps led up to the main part of the garden which was mostly gravelled to reduce maintenance (because we had so little time to spare – hah!). The beds, heavily mulched with bark, were filled with all sorts of exotic plants, kept lush by our automatic watering system.
When Small reached the toddling stage our eyes were opened and we saw our perfect garden for what it was: a Small death trap. It was a nightmare battle zone covered with hard surfaces to crash onto, gravel to choke on and steps to tumble down. It had a pool to drown in, the plants turned out to be mostly poisonous and the watering system was essentially a host of spikes sticking out of the ground.
A radical rethink was in order. The water had to go. The pool was filled in and the tumbling stream dug up and converted into a sloping path up to the garden. The stone steps were removed and replaced with a wavy slide, built into the ground at a shallow angle. This provided a much more entertaining route from the higher level of the garden down to the patio. Once Small got used to it he enjoyed it too. The only problem was the hard patio at the bottom.
We investigated playground rubber matting but it was enormously expensive. Fortunately I remembered cow mats from my days working in a plant nursery. These are large black mats that cows stand on when they are being milked because it is much more comfortable for their hooves than hard concrete. The propagation team used them in the nursery, not because they were being milked, but because otherwise they would be stood on hard concrete all day. And no, they didn’t have hooves. The point is, the mats are softer than concrete and a fraction of the cost of playground rubber matting.
The spiky and toxic plants were removed and replaced with annuals to fill the gaps. Which, incidentally, attracted a lot of stinging insects.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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