Playing Around in the Garden

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For those who were fortunate to grow up in a house with a large garden, thoughts of it will no doubt stir many happy memories. The long, lazy summer days, endless trips to the kitchen for drinks, the odd grazed knee and maybe even a barbecue or two. But it's recalling the games we play in garden that really bring the past to life. And it's great to know that you're never too old to build up a sweat playing hard on the lawn.

Games are simple when you're an under five. A spot of chase, hide and seek or catch-kiss can make an afternoon fly by, and they give you dodging skills that will prepare you for the shopping mall later in life. O you could lay out some planks and other odds and ends on the lawn, to all the world a random mess, but to you and your friends the world's most awesome pirate ship. If there's a paddling pool nearby, the fantasy is complete. And finally there's the secret den made from tree cuttings and old bed-sheets, which is most people's first taste of the property ladder � and oh, how you wish it was your last.

Once toddlerhood is over, garden games start to take on a more competitive streak. Whether you're beating your friend in the World Cup final or being timed on makeshift obstacle courses to prove your athleticism, you're driven by a sense of one-upmanship that might never leave you. The time-served way of never losing, of course, is to be the owner the ball, racquets or whatever other item is essential to the game; that way you can retire in a sulk when the going gets tough. Childhood is the age of the water fight, too. Or more accurately, the age when the innocent splashing of your toddler days gives way to a primal urge to leave no thread of your opponents' clothing dry. Buckets, hoses, badly rinsed washing-up liquid bottles and sponges all develop new value in the water fighting season.

For some reason the garden seem less attractive than almost anywhere else for the maturing teenager.

Once adulthood is reached, garden play is either a serene time-killer or a means of proving to the kids that you've still got what it takes. There is a wealth of options, from those water-filled boules (of which at least one has lost its filling) to the near-violent pastime of Swingball, the closest most family members get to open warfare. With a little more space, a communal game of rounders or the mysteriously named French cricket must feature in any game organiser's portfolio.

So whatever your age, as soon as the weather forecaster gives you the all clear, getting out into the garden is more than just a way to relax � it's a way to build a lifetime of happy memories, hone your skills and bond with your family and friends in the shared euphoria of outdoor living.

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Author: Ryan Dowmann
Ryan Dowmann is an enthusiastic garden writer covering home & garden subjects for Robert Dyas who offer a range of garden play equipment and garden furniture.

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