Christie recently shared some great ideas for creating an outdoor play space kids will adore and I thought it might be fun to follow up with some of the ways we make space for outdoor play in our rather urban, not-so-natural-feeling, smallish backyard.
First, let me set your mind at ease: Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to outdoor play. Instead of trying to have it all, choose one or two of the ideas here or rotate play spaces from one season to the next, depending on your child’s evolving interests. What’s most important is that your children have a chance to spend time playing outside every day.
Nature Play Station
The secret to keeping our outdoor play space organized is our nature play station (shown above). It’s a makeshift shelving unit made with a couple of unused wood planks and some tree stumps. This is where we keep our sand and dirt toys (buckets, shovels and the like), plus other natural elements like acorns, shells, sticks and rocks.
Instead of a DIY sandbox with all the trimmings, how about a backyard beach? We made one using an extra large galvanized tub. Add some sand (which can be purchased at a local garden supply store), shovels, sifters, plastic animals and water and voila – it’s a backyard beach.
Mud Play Zone
I know mud pie kitchens are popular, but my two boys aren’t afraid to get seriously dirty. Which means we rely on a simple, small mound of dirt for our mud play. (You could simplify even more by using a bucket or other large container instead.)
Our mud play zone transforms daily with the addition of favorite toys and natural elements. At times it’s a racetrack, construction site or fossil bed; other days it’s filled with water for making rivers, puddles and mud soup.
Children’s gardens don’t have to take up as much space as you might think. Think containers. You can plant favorite flowers and herbs in a fairy garden, which can be as simple as the one we made in a recycled wooden crate. Add magical touches using natural elements such as rocks, seeds, pinecones and sticks.
Once the temperatures start to rise, water play tends to take over our entire backyard, though we don’t have a water table or kiddie pool. Instead, we keep buckets handy (other plastic containers work well, too) as well as an array of water play “tools” – squirt guns, spray bottles and sponges.
How do you make space for outdoor play?