With the month of September upon us, you may be thinking that this might not be the optimal time to be creating an outdoor play area. However, I have learned from many backyard set-ups and redesigns, that the fall is actually an ideal time to recreate a space. The weather’s not as hot, materials are usually less expensive, and if you get it done in the fall, it’s set and ready to go in the spring!
Today I have a special guest, David Reeves, who will be sharing how to create a play area that blends in with the local environment.
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As a parent, you know how important it is for your children to have a place to play outside. That’s why you pack them all up and take them to the park so often, right? Having an outdoor play space in your own backyard is an even better choice, when possible. Your own space ensures your kids stay active and are engaging with nature, even when you can’t get to the park.
You may be hesitant, because you don’t want to mar the look of your yard — but who says that your outdoor play space has to be garish plastic and brightly colored? Consider these tips to create an outdoor play space that blends in with the natural environment. As a bonus, the play area, when it is natural, will help your children connect with nature.
1. Use Natural Items
Have you ever noticed how your children can make a plaything out of just about anything? A small rock becomes a pet, a stick becomes a doll or a gun or a bow and arrow, and dirt is crafted into mud pies and other food items.
Capitalize on this by using natural items in your outdoor play space. Give the kids a patch of dirt to dig in and make mud. Use large rocks as climbing structures and logs as places to sit. In reality, all you have to do is provide the tools and a space where kids are free to play as they wish, and the kids will make their own fun and discover a little about nature in the process.
2. Use Wood
If natural items alone are not enough, add some man-made structures, but keep with the natural theme by using wood for these structures. A small climbing wall or a wooden swing set can complement your natural outdoor space well, while being fun for the kids.
3. Add a Water Feature
If your children are old enough to be trusted with some water, add a water feature to the outdoor play area. A small fountain or waterfall gives them a source for the water they need to create mud pies, and you will attract wildlife that would not normally be attracted to the space. Teach them to be respectful of wildlife, and your kids will have a blast with the occasional frog or toad that wanders in when you have a water feature.
4. Purchase Nature-Inspired Play Structures
If you are more comfortable with plastic and man-made play structures, and you want something, such as a slide, that you can’t make out of wood, look around for nature-inspired play structures. Plastic rock climbing structures, realistic-looking climbing logs made out of something that won’t give splinters and even slides in natural colors can give your outdoor play space a bit more fun without hurting the overall look.
5. Don’t Forget the Sandbox!
Put all thoughts of the mess aside. Your kids love to play in the sand. Why not give them a place to do so outside? Creating a sandbox or sand play area is very easy. Box off the area using weatherproofed 4×4 boards, dig away some of the soil from underneath to give it some depth and fill it with sand. Let your kids go crazy building in one of nature’s best playthings.
With a little bit of creative thinking, your backyard can be transformed into a great place for your child to play, all without changing the look or feel of the space. Get inspired by nature, and let your child’s creativity take over!
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Superior Playgrounds (http://srpplayground.com/) in Carrollton, GA. The company supplies playground equipment and play structures to several industries, including education and living facilities. They have a variety of structures and components, such as slides and swing sets, to fit in your indoor or outdoor play space.
I love that all these tips encourage the use of natural items!
I love the use of natural items… indoors and outdoors. I has such a calming effect as opposed to brightly coloured plastic objects!
Nature is the ultimate inspiration! All of David’s suggestions are great. Dylan especially loves the sand suggestion because he’s a little obsessed with throwing it atop his head. 2014 is whizzing by, I really cant believe it’s already September
Oh Dylan… of course you like to throw sand on top of your head! Now don’t tell me you do it because your mommy does it… she’ll ride your trike but no sand is going into that gorgeous hair (unless you put it in there of course).
So glad you enjoyed this post Rebecca. I agree, David had some great suggestions.
I can’t wait to buy a house to set up a play area in our yard. I love some of the ideas here, especially the one about making it more natural.
Thanks for sharing!
I love the “natural” ideas too. Children function so well in nature… when they’re outdoors, it only makes sense to make it feel like they are really outdoors!
I use natural elements inside and outside the house. It really does have a calming effect.
Natural playscapes are the best– they’re really commonly found at Montessori schools, which I LOVE!!
It makes so much sense. The only thing that I find a little funny about them is that the ones I’ve seen are so expensive to construct. I guess it seems like it should be simpler… but then again not all natural spaces are as conducive to play.
Cool post, Jennifer! How did you connect with David?
I love the outdoor play spaces for a lot of European-inspired schools, Montessori included. I used to work in a Reggio-inspired child care centre and we had many trees, vegetable and flower gardens, a pond, a sand space, and even a wood tree house. It was amazing!
I have a guest post page and Devid’s representative contacted me through it. It’s a fabulous post and works really well with a lot of the content I share on my blog.
Fall in Arizona is the most glorious time of year and we spend so much time outside playing! We have some big plans for our own play spaces this fall.
I imagine fall in Arizona is of very comfortable temperatures as opposed to summer hey?!
I hope you share more about your outdoor play space plans!
Love this! We have some really great natural elements in our yard that are great for learning. And we love to take our daughter on nature walks to explore the outdoors.
Thanks for sharing!
Natural elements in our backyards and neighbourhoods are such wonderful learning resources. Nature is so inspiring, calming, and peaceful… we need more of it!
Can David come over and do this to my yard? Sounds amazing…except we need a couple more months down here before the cool down!
Doesn’t David do a wonderful job of describing elements for a beautiful and inspiring play space?! I think everyone wants some of these natural learning spaces in their yards!
I think my favorite thing is the sand box. I would love to have one just for myself. :) I think the kids would like it too but nothing beats a sandbox. We live out in the country so our yard is about as natural as it gets and I love it! :) we also have a great deal of wooded areas and the kids love to play in them.
The enjoyment of sand is limitless for little ones isn’t it?! There are so many things to do with it.
It sounds like you live in a glorious setting. How delightful!
I really like this post, Jennifer! And, I think I am still struggling with WP–but please tell me it get’s easier? (used to be Kicking kilos)
You’re on WordPress? What happened to Kicking Kilos? I struggle sometimes with WordPress but yes, with practice, it does get easier.
They actually made a natural playscape near our house, on a mountain, using water features, wood, sand, etc. It’s good but it could be better. I don’t feel like it is inspired as what it described here.
I could always use these tips in our yard! We have four acres and we intend to use them.
I love natural play areas. With four acres, I imagine you’ll have all sorts of good stuff for your kids to explore! The possibilities are endless!
I’ve always said that I want my kids to have a nice, natural outdoor play area when I have them. That’s how I grew up and it required me to use my imagination. Love it! We LOOOVED our sandbox :)
A large, and natural, outdoor environment is awesome. Nature is so inspiring… and calming!
These are great ideas :) Can’t wait to use them when we have our kiddos :)
I agree, I thought David shared some really great ideas here!
My kids play in their sandbox every single day. We’re lucky to live on a 15 acre property so there’s always lots of things to do.
Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo
15 acres?! Wow! That’s a lot of space to romp, play, and explore!
Love these suggestions, especially since children really do gravitate towards more natural elements. Anything we’ve ever bought them for outdoors rarely gets played with if it’s plastic, but they will spend hours in the rocks or sand.
Also, September is the perfect month where I live to recreate a space! :)
I love natural elements (both indoors and out) for children. It’s so inspiring and calming.
great ideas! i like the the nature-inspired and water ideas. really good.
Nature is so inspiring… it should be, our creator made it especially for us to enjoy! I love natural play spaces. David did a wonderful job highlighting them here in this post.