Principal designer Ben Shearer explores strategies for getting kids off digital devices and back into the great outdoors.

With summer holidays around the corner, Ben was invited onto RadioLIVE’s Saturday Fresh with Carly Flynn to talk strategies for getting kids off digital devices and back into the garden. We’ve collated highlights below for you to read.

As a parent, how can you start encouraging your children outdoors? 

Setting kids up for success is key and it starts with Mum and Dad. The earlier you can instill a love for the outdoors, the less likely your child will favour the indoors. 

  • Safety first. Before kids can crawl, create a safe, sectioned-off outdoor space ready for them to enjoy. In doing this, you’ve stopped yourself from fearfully helicoptering around your child if they do go to crawl outside. You’re now able to encourage them to explore the grass and dirt between their fingers and toes.  
  • Create shade. This’ll mean longer hours outdoors. The cantilevered, brightly-coloured umbrellas from Shade 7 are fantastic and such high-quality. 
  • Install a hose so kids can easily be rinsed off before coming in.
I have an outdoor space and I’ve had a few ideas as to what the kids would like, but where do I start? 

A long-term solution, carefully considered, can mean work done now will be enjoyed by two generations of children. Great design is purposeful. Think about how you and the kids want to spend time in the space and then zone areas for each of these activities. Consider 

  • An area in which kids can entertain themselves or which they can retreat to, to read
  • An area you can enjoy with the kids 
  • An area kids can play with their friends. 

Once you’ve established your needs, then think about the features that’ll support these needs. 

  • Sandpits make for fantastic solo child’s play.
  • A strip of shaded, artificial turf is kind on little hands and adult knees.
  • Kids and their friends could be entertained for hours on end with a playhouse. Adding bells and whistles each year, choose wood over plastic. 

What are some luxe and less options for kids of different ages? 

0-4 Year-olds 


*Astro-turf is fantastic, encouraging tactile play for babies

*Recessed sandpits make for endless fun


*Affix mini rock-climbing holds to a wooden screen

*Playhouses – could yours do with a refresh? Consider blackboard paint walls, astroturf the floor or add a captain’s wheel. 

*Edible gardens create better eaters and encourage a healthy understanding of nutrition 

*Bird feeders and swan plants draw in birds and butterflies

5-10 Year-olds 


*Sunken trampolines (all the fun, a tidier garden without towering poles to disrupt the view)

*Install a hanging chair kids can escape to – the Hokianga Hanging Chair from Ico Traders is fantastic 

*Roast marshmallows over an outdoor fireplace


*Roast marshmallows over a brazier 

*Install a hammock for stargazing 

*Hang a tyre swing

11-18 Year-olds 


*Swimming pools are a stand-out hit at every age 

*Spa pools/hot tubs and plunge pools bring all the neighbourhood teens round


*Install a projector in a sheltered area and have movie night with the family in the garden 

*Think sprinklers and a splash pad for cooling down on hot summer days