A Child's Garden by Molly Dannenmaier: Book Review

Shari Altman
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A Child's Garden book
A Child's Garden: Timber Press
I'd heard some wonderful reviews of Molly Dannenmaier's book but I had no idea what a treat it would be to flip through these pages. A Child's Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children is a truly magical book, celebrating how children play and providing numerous examples of how to incorporate these elements into your garden without sacrificing beauty.

Don't you just adore the cover? As you can see, this book is filled with beautiful, color photography, which is important to me in a gardening book. I also liked that the book was organized well, first discussing the importance of nature in the lives of children and then giving the reader some history about how children's gardens have evolved over time before diving into the projects.

The core portion of the book focuses on the nine elements that Dannenmaier identified as important in children's play: Water, creatures, refuges, dirt, heights, movement, make-believe, nurture, and learning. Each of these elements has its own section in the book complete with ideas on how the element can be integrated into one's garden.

For example, in the heights section, Dannenmaier suggests choosing a tree for your landscape that encourages climbing such as a mulberry tree, adding natural play structures such as logs or rocks that children can climb, or building an elaborative treehouse. One of the strengths of the book is that it gives a range of ideas from the simple to the more complex, allowing the reader to start small or choose to tackle a bigger project.

Often, Dannenmaier encourages the reader to think outside of the box by focusing on natural elements instead of relying on traditional play structures. I loved her suggestion for a simple sandbox where she reminds the reader that a sandbox does not have to be enclosed but can be blended more naturally into the garden.  

Another part of the book worthy of a mention is Dannenmaier's discussion of safety in the garden. She believes that flowers such as daffodils do not have to be avoided. Instead, parents can use these plants as an opportunity to teach children about poisonous plants. Whether discussing water, creatures, or heights, Dannenmaier trusts children to be careful and respectful of nature, and she trusts parents to teach children about the risks involved.

What a joyful celebration of play, natural spaces, creativity and imagination! A Child's Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children is not to be missed.

 

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