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September 2011
Garden Playground


While I can’t make people love nature, I can help them beautify their garden and let nature work its magic.

Today’s children are a fortunate or unfortunate lot, depending on your perspective. They are fortunate because they have comfort — an air-conditioned home, a computer that does the imagining for them, 80-plus channels on TV, and a host of other cool gadgets.

Outside their comfortable home, they have a modern Malaysia — highways and LRTs, shopping malls and cineplexes, and instant communication.

So why are they are unfortunate? Because of these very comforts. As a father of two, I don’t want my children to grow up with memories of shooting enemy warplanes and playing virtual golf on the TV, PC or iPad.

We’re raising a new generation who are oblivious to the beauty of nature. I don’t want my kids to only know what it’s like to have air-conditioning and not appreciate a cool breeze in a hot afternoon.

Short of leaving your kids at the nearest forest reserve to fend for themselves, why not build a miniature nature park in the little grassy patch in front of your house? The best part is, you can build that dream garden even in a terrace house. Indeed, your garden can be a place of discovery for your kids.

This reminds me of when our team was building a garden for a client who had an excited little boy. One day, while examining the recently completed garden, I noticed the usually restless boy peering intently at a plant. Curious, I took a step closer and discovered that he was staring at a huge caterpillar spinning a cocoon.

History books tell us that the first classroom was done outdoors. Amazing, I thought. All a child needs is a little playground and Mother Nature will enlighten him for hours, sort of like a live Discovery Channel programme smack in the middle of a modern urban area.

Such a garden wonderland can be created in spaces as small as 3m by 3m, or spaces edging terrace houses.

Creating memories

What’s interesting about creating your children’s garden is that it is personal. It allows them to get connected with nature and discover the pleasures of playing outdoors.

Wonderment, adventure and curiosity are the ingredients. With a little imagination, you can transform your garden into a wonderland complete with a diverse range of flora and fauna, a water feature, a play area and perhaps a petting zoo of rabbits or ducks.

Keep it simple and your children will still find it intriguing. They will form many pleasant memories there, a place where they can run, play or get their hands and knees dirty. A child with grass-stained knees is a healthy child indeed. Of course, safety features must be in place.

Now, let’s make our gardens a place filled with love and happy moments. Here are some ideas:

• Waterfall? Pond? Kiddie pool? Ponds and water features make ideal focal points, but remember to tailor these for children or implement some form of safety feature. Fill the pond with fish for added excitement.
• Add tables, chairs, benches or wooden decking so you can have a picnic or storytelling session.
• Grow plants, lots of them – fragrant plants, vegetables, herbs. It’s a surefire way to get children involved. Also plant mosquito-repelling plants such as geranium or the local serai wangi.
• Lighting such as lanterns and fairy lights can turn the area into a fantasy land not only for kids, but also those young at heart. 
• Other additions include a playhouse, wooden swing, hammock, sand pit or bird house.

Naturally, as far as Mother Nature is concerned, everyone is like a little kid discovering the world for the first time.

I have wondered what is it about a kampung that makes it more endearing than a house in a modern township. Is it because of its picturesque scenery or elements of a bygone era? After much thought, I realise that it’s because of childhood memories.

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