Turn Your Garden into a Cool Kids Playground

Not only will your kids love you for this, but you as parents will reap the rewards too. Making the most of your outdoor space so your kids can get plenty of exercise and fresh air has its obvious benefits, and there are many more reasons why it’s a great idea to make the garden a place the kids want to spend time. While going to the park can still be on the agenda, having your own outdoor play area gives you the flexibility to stay home and invite friends over when the trip out feels too much, you’re waiting in for a delivery or when there’s work to be done at home.
For those of you who have kitchens overlooking the garden, it can make tea-time a whole lot easier if you can give the kids a run out in the garden while you get on with prepping the evening grub. Obviously this applies to younger children, as older ones won’t require such a watchful eye. Having friends and their kids over also means adults can relax over a cuppa, watching the little ones make the most of the inventive playground you’ve worked hard to create. You can get nostalgic and relive your childhood joining in with fun and games outdoors too. It can be a great tool for getting your older ones off their screens for a while too.
Here are 12 great ideas for giving the kids the garden playground they’ll love.

1.    A chalk board; kids love to draw on walls right? Install a large chalkboard on your fence. Kids will have hours of fun chalking up some giant pics for the family to admire.

2.    A zip line will give the kids hours of fun and great kudos with their mates. If you are lucky enough to have a big garden, and especially if you have a large tree, setting up a zip wire safely will make your garden the go to place for all the kids in your street.

3.    There’s nothing cooler than a tyre swing. You’ll need an old tyre (great to recycle), some chain and/or rope, as well as something to hang the swing from (most likely a large tree). Be sure to test it’s safe before giving the kids a go.

4.    Teepeescome in all sizes and let’s face it are the coolest of tents. Red indian outfits can make a great addition to the dressing up box and making a totem pole (big or small) could be a great creative family project.

5.    Sandpits come in all shapes and sizes and can easily be bought or handmade. Be creative; it doesn’t have to take over your garden. Sand in a large tin flower tub can be just as fun. You can bury treasure in the sand for the little ones to find.

6.    The ultimate treehouse is a fantastic project for the DIY enthusiast and a big hit with the kids. You’ll obviously need a tree you can safely put the magical sky house in.

7.    If you don’t have any trees for a treehouse project, then a playhouse is just as good a space for kids to ramp up their imaginative play and to feel they have their own space to hang out in the garden. Playhouses range from tiny one room plastic options to luxurious wooden 2-storey creations with balconies. It’s just a question of budget and aesthetics.

8.    A hammock is always a winner and a great place for you to relax on a balmy summer evening with a glass of your favourite wine once the kids are in bed.

9.    Trampolines are all the rage these days, but a quirky way of adding it to your garden is to sink it into the ground. It may take a bit of back-breaking work to dig the hole, but it makes it less of an eyesore in the garden, and you could even make a wooden cover to go over it, making a funky raised sitting area.

10.    Little ones will love an outdoor kitchen for making mud pies. It’s a great way of recycling your old pots and pans and kitchen utensils too. It doesn’t need to be elaborate – a small table with an oil cloth cover, a washing up bowl and a chopping board make a great play kitchen.

11.    A water feature is great for the summer months. Having a pool might not be an option, but splash pads with fountains can be a compromise and feel safer for the little ones. Failing that a sprinkler (while perhaps not ethically great for conserving water) can be a cheaper option for giving the kids a fun treat on hotter days.

12.    A vegetable patch might not sound quite the thing for an adventure playground, but you’ll be amazed at how fascinated kids can be with growing and tending things in the garden. There’s the planting project, the feeding and watering and the harvesting, not to mention the cooking sessions. If you’ve invested in a playhouse, you could even add on a mini veg patch as the garden to that.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working alongside a selection of companies including UK Log Cabins, who were consulted over this post.

Want to Sell your Home? Here are 4 Ways to Increase its Market Value

So you’re planning on selling your family home, and you want to know if there are any changes you can make that will help to boost the market value of your property. Property values can often depend largely on the area; whether it is near a bus or train line, whether the neighbourhood is reputable, whether or not an ‘upmarket’ supermarket is close by. However there are a number of renovations you can make to the property itself which is guaranteed to increase its market value

Here are four of them. 

1.       Extension and Conversion

The Guardian states that adding a loft conversion or extending your home can increase the value of your property by up to 20%. Loft conversions and property extensions are a handy way to transform unused space into functional space in order to add value to your home. Loft conversions are generally considered less disruptive when compared to a property extension, but both have their merits. 

Remember planning permission! Local authorities can and will order you to tear down any extensions or conversions at your own expense. Some lofts cannot be converted due to lack of space, the internal height of the existing loft etc. so make sure to check with a professional before you start drawing up any plans. 

2.       Taking Care of your Amenities

When looking at a property, two rooms that potential buyers are likely going to pay a attention to, are the kitchen, and the bathroom(s). Problems in a bathroom can spell disaster for any potential buyer; as you have damp and mould to worry about in the long term, while a dirty or smelly kitchen can really put buyers off. People want to step into a fresh house full of possibilities, not a house where the kitchen smells of year old potatoes and garlic. 

According to Bathstore, your basic new bathroom suite costs, on average, about £4,500. MyLocalPrices values a typical new fitted kitchen at anywhere between £5,000 and £8,000. These prices give you a good idea as to what you should be aiming for, when looking at getting a new bathroom and kitchen fitted. The new amenities don’t need to be bespoke, designs that are presentable and in-keeping with the style of the house work just fine.

3.       Revamping a Tired Exterior and a Dreary Interior

It is important to remember that a potential buyer will be looking at all aspects of your property, including its exterior. If the brickwork looks dirty, the paint is flaking off the doors and the windows haven't been washed for years, it is unlikely that you’ll make a sale any time soon. Hire a professional property maintenance company to see to the dirty brickwork and the painting, and get a window cleaner to give your windows a good scrub. If the front door looks a little worse for wear, consider investing in a new door as opposed to fixing it up. 

Unless numerous buy-to-let investors are going to be taking an interest in your propertypotential buyers will not want to purchase the property with all its existing furniture. It is better to completely clear the property out. When repainting go for neutral shades such as Calico from Dulux, or a Light French Gray (sic) from Behr.

4.       Two Small Trumps One Large

In today’s world, 3 Bedroom properties are generally worth more than 2 bedroom properties, even if the 2 bedrooms are large and spacious. It’s all about functionality over form; a large bedroom is all very well for a retired professional, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill for a growing family with plans for the future. Likewise in a family home, two bathrooms are certainly preferable to one, particularly when you consider the amount of time some people like to spend in the bathroom. 

The rooms do not need to be particularly large, but the website does list the Nationally Described Space Standard for one bedspace as “a single bedroom that needs to have a floor area of at least 7.5m²”. For bathrooms, BHG recommends that at least 21inches of space must be planned in front of a lavatory, toilet, bidet and a tub, with 24inches of space needed in front of a shower. 

The Nationwide Building Society has calculated that an extra bathroom can add up to 4.9% or £9,600 on to the value of your home, whereas having an extra bedroom can bump it up by 11% or £22,100.  If you have the space, why not add upwards of £30,000 to the value of your home by turning one bedroom into two and adding a bathroom? It will certainly be worth the effort. 

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working alongside a selection of companies including Hunters Estate Agents, who were consulted over this post.

Who and what is RICS?

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is an institution with offices all over the world. The organisation accredits professional surveyors within the property, land, and construction sectors.Founded in London on the 15th June 1868 after a meeting of surveyors at the Westminster Palace Hotel, it was originally known as the ‘Surveyors’ Institution’. John Clutton, the man responsible for establishing property consultants Cluttons, wasthe very first president.

The headquarters of RICS are in London, on the corner of Great George Street and Parliament Square.Their name was changed to ‘The Chartered Surveyors’ Institution’in 1930, and in 1946, the title ‘Royal’ was granted by George VI. Finally, in 1947, the professional body became the ‘Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’, or RICS. 

So, what exactly does RICS do? Well, apart from maintaining the highest professional and educational standards and promoting the aims of the profession, they also help to oversee regulation and provide unbiased guidance and advice.

Worldwide, RICS accredits over 500 undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The RICS accredited course is the first step on the road to becoming a Chartered Surveyor. It provides the initial academic requirements for students training to be surveyors.Because of its uncompromising code of ethics, clients and consumers are protected from unprofessional and low-standard practices.

The significant market presence of RICS means they’re ideally placed to influence policy and entrench standards nationwide. By working closely with government, they’re able to deliver the highest international standards and support and develop the real estate, land and construction arena for the interest and welfare of all.

The statistics are impressive: In 2015, the number of RICS qualified professionals in 140 countries around the world totalled 120,000, while student membership came in at 81,000. The United Kingdom has the majority of accredited professionals but there are also very large numbers in Australia, Europe and Hong Kong … and the numbers in China, India and the Americas are growing at a phenomenal rate.

The RICS works closely with other professional bodies such as The World Bank, The United Nations and The European Union. And in 2013, the RICS became a founder member of the alliance to develop International Property Measurement Standards, which launched its very first standard (for measuring office space) in November 2014. A year later, the RICS became a founder member of the alliance to develop International Ethics Standards. These member bodies are focused on the development and implementation ofnew, professional standards.

Becoming a RICS Member

1.      If you’re studying for or have completed a RICS accredited degree, (undergraduate or post graduate), you will need to complete two years of Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) training (if you have less than 5 years’ experience), or one year’s APC training (if you have experience of 5 or more years). But if you have at least 10 years’ work experience,then no APC training is required. 

2.      If you already have a Bachelor’s degree or are a member of a RICS approved professional body and have at least 5 years’ experience, you can apply to become a member straight away

Because Chartered Surveyors have the highest levels of professional skills that are recognised all over the world, they earn more too. A salary survey conducted in 2014 clearly showed that Chartered Surveyors earned at least 20% more than their non-chartered colleagues.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

RICS members never stand still for a moment and are required to continually improve their skills and competence. They do this by completing a minimum of 20 hours per year on CPD training.This programme, which encourages a spirit of continuous learning, ensures that members build on their skills and competencies on an ongoing basis.

How Do Students Benefit?

Students are offered free membership to RICS and can take advantage of career advice, the  extensive library of books and reference materials, exciting job opportunities, and can tap into the vast network RICS is able to provide.

Registered Charity

RICS has set up a registered charity called The RICS Education Trust. It offers grants of up to £10,000 for those members involved in research projects.Applications for grants areavailable to full-time practitioners and academics. The charity does not, however, provide financial support for undergraduate or postgraduate students.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working alongside a selection of companies including Peter Barry Surveyors, who were consulted over this post.