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Dex & Decks: Elevating Your Outdoor Living Spaces for Family

Dexter playing outdoors in a sandpit holding a yellow spade

With the warmer weather here, we can finally get out in the garden and enjoy longer days of sunshine and play. One of the best places to enjoy this lovely time of year is on your family-friendly deck. 

Curating a deck perfect for little ones is all in the details. If you’re building a new deck, consider all the essentials, from flashing tape to make it last longer, to stair gates to prevent tumbles, to rails spaced so toddlers cannot slip through. If you have an existing deck, do a safety check and make any needed modifications. Then, you can begin to dream of all the ways you might enjoy deck time this summer!

Here are a few tips to get started:

Safety first

Before spending time on the deck with little ones, you’ll want to do a safety inspection. A primary focus is putting a gate at the top and bottom of any steps. 

Next, you’ll want to ensure railings are close together so children don’t try to squeeze through. The International Residential Code (IRC) states the need for handrails for any deck more than 

76 cm above the ground. Railings should measure at least 92 cm in height, and the space between individual posts in the railing should be less than 10 cm. Additionally, the space between the bottom of the railing and the top of the deck floor also should be no more than 10 cm. 

If your deck does not meet these standards, you will want to modify or replace elements on your deck. If you don’t replace, securely install screening or plexiglass to railings that are unsafe. 

Make sure exterior doors that lead to the deck have child safety locks, so you always know when your child is outside. And even if you’ve child-proofed your deck, never leave them unattended. Children are quick to pull over a chair or other light furniture in order to climb.

Finally, if you have a wooden deck, check for splinters and other uneven surfaces that may cause injury to bare feet. Sweep away debris often, and rinse off your deck with water every few months. 

Create play space

A deck can provide a wonderful bonus play space for children. Provide creative fun by storing bubbles, art supplies and outdoor toys in a deck box or cabinet. A deck is a fun and mess-free spot for a water table. Put Play-doh and slime on a child-friendly picnic table and don’t worry so much about what falls to the ground.  

Remember the joys of childhood

As they say, the days are long, but the years are short. Make this the summer you reclaim the simple joys of childhood such as a slowly savoring an ice lolly. Freeze your own with your favorite fruit juices. 

Dine al fresco

Decks provide the perfect picnic spot, far from marching ants and close to the house. Set up a lovely patio set or simply lay down a picnic blanket and enjoy your favourite crackers and cheese and sippy drinks. Check out some of these top new outdoor furnishings for 2021. Try a new recipe on the barbecue, but keep it a safe distance from your home and keep little ones safe around hot appliances.

Roast marshmallows

Add a firepit to the garden and enjoy s’mores all yearround. There are many choices and styles on the market, or DIY your own!  Take fire safety precautions, and position it away from your home and other flammable structures.

Create a drive-in movie theatre

Fashion cars from old cardboard boxes or totes. Let the children use their imaginations and create totally unique convertibles for your own drive-in movie theatre. Pop a big bowl of popcorn, then watch your favorite animated film.  

Relax and swing

Set up a swing or hammock on deck and you have a lovely place to read a book and watch the children play. They might even want to join you for a kip. DIY your own bed swing and enjoy all the snuggles!

Bring the garden on deck

Add flowers, foliage and veggies to your deck with container plants. Try these tips from the Royal Horticultural Society to ensure proper drainage and planting. Place containers on risers so moisture from the plants doesn’t stain or damage your deck boards. Let your children watch nature come to life by planting seeds in containers and watering them. Paint terra cotta pots to make your outdoor living space extra colourful.

Add lighting

Whether you opt for string lights overhead, solar lights for your deck posts or permanent light fixtures around the garden, don’t forget to brighten your space for beauty and safety sake. Your guests will enjoy your magical space when you tuck in lighting elements throughout the garden.  

Learn and grow

Decks aren’t just for play; enjoy educational projects outside with your little ones. Collect flowers or leaves in your garden for  a nature journal. Conduct a science experiment or paint a canvas (with washable paint). Build a child-friendly rocket or try your hand at volcano building. 

Fill summer 2021 with many memories — on and off the deck!

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