Gardening with Kids, part 4: Forts & Hideaways

If you’re a regular reader, I apologize for leaving you hanging this past Saturday. I had a wonderful wedding to attend and provide the flowers for, so that took me out of the blogging game for several days!

Let’s talk some more about Gardening with Kids!

“Gardening” can be more than teaching them how to sow seeds or put plants in the ground. Sometimes it’s helpful to design your garden FOR your kids as well. What I mean is—take a step back and ask yourself—”What would make my garden and yard more appealing to kids?”

The previous parts of this series have some answers:

Gardening with Kids, part 3: Celebrating Backyard Wildlife

Gardening with Kids, part 2: The Five Senses

Gardening with Kids, part 1

Today I’m going to talk about Forts & Hideaways.

If your kids are anything like mine, they gravitate to forts and little places to hide. I remember that desire from when I was a kid, too: a place to “play house” or to create your own imaginary world. This is something we can create in our gardens and yards.

Some tall grass on a shady back slope was the perfect hideaway for these 2 cuties.

Some tall grass on a shady back slope was the perfect hideaway for these 2 cuties.

Picture this:

A “house” grown from sunflowers, with morning glory vines for a roof and soft garden dirt as the floor.

The magical space under the every-shifting branches of a weeping willow tree.

A garden shed, with steps leading up to an “attic,” with a roof just tall enough for kids to stand up in.

A group of shrubs enclosing a small space just right for secrets and alone time.

A tall stand of wildflowers that a little person can feel lost in—without ever leaving the yard.

A picnic table on the lawn with a cool, shady space underneath.

A tepee made of sticks tied together at the top, with bean vines growing up and filling in all the spaces.

The classic: a platform with a railing up in a tree for a birds-eye view.


This space for your kiddos doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. It’s not necessarily better to have one that’s grown rather than built. Just that it’s there, beckoning your children to come outside and play awhile, using their imaginations.

One of my dreams is to take Sharon Lovejoy’s advice and directions, and finally grow a sunflower house! I just hope my kids are not all grown up by the time I get it figured out!

They look so young!! How has it only been 3 years? (Also, that’s the classic platypus face on my youngest in the middle there—I was pretty sad when he stopped doing it!)

They look so young!! How has it only been 3 years? (Also, that’s the classic platypus face on my youngest in the middle there—I was pretty sad when he stopped doing it!)

Our shed in Washington had a 2nd floor that was the designated clubhouse for the kids. I myself slept overnight with them up there to celebrate the start of summer one year. (Pictured above.) I hardly slept a wink for fear of the many spiders inhabiting it! Yikes! The kids didn’t seem to mind a bit.

As of right now, we don’t have a space that we have created for this purpose. We put in a shed about a year ago with a barn-style shape, with the idea of repeating the shed fort idea. Until that’s finished, my kids have come up with a few different spots in our yard on their own. There’s a certain tree in the front corner, that has a fence on 2 sides of it, and a big rock underneath that is somewhat hidden by the lower branches.

They also have a place called “Freedom Island” in the very back corner of our property, along the (always dry) irrigation ditch, where they have spent many happy hours playing out of direct line of sight from the house.

So, if you don’t come up with something for them, they will probably find spots on their own. That’s great! There’s nothing that says your chosen spot has to be the only, favorite getaway. You can enlist their help to create something, or you can put some thought into it and surprise them, but I really feel like it’s hard to go wrong here—unless they’re teenagers. Then maybe you let them build a tiny house out back? Ha! I don’t know on that one. Chime in with ideas!

Once they have a place—or two or three—encourage their creativity by growing child-friendly fruit, veggies, and flowers to furnish it, decorate it, and make it seem like a real house! :) (Real houses have food, right?) All of these things will add to their enjoyment of the garden itself, along with providing excellent opportunities for the development of imagination and nurturing their creativity.

Tell me about your favorite childhood fort!