Our homestead garden plan includes a small area reserved for an evolving nature play space for our little ones. We didn’t have a budget to work with, so most the play elements were based on what we had on hand. It’s a flexible space that can change over time as the kids grow and their interests change. That means none of the play elements are permanent or expensive.
We setup the bean teepee on the edge of the play area, in part to keep the kids from running through the open space into our adjacent planted area. We threw an old sheet over the teepee to create some shade, rolling it up when not in use so the beans can get sun and water. The sheet is held in place with clothes pins – pretty simple!
There’s a small pallet inside the teepee with an old quilt on top to make it a cozy sitting area. It’s a favorite hang out for coloring or just giggling with friends.
The tree stumps were gathered from a wood pile at our favorite cabin in the high desert. Sometimes these are seats for Juniper and her friends. Other times they are stumps for her to climb. And just the other day they served as platforms to arrange her “bath guys” – the various plastic action figures, ducks and fish we’ve accumulated over time.
In the future, these stumps might get tucked throughout the garden with a low, wide plastic container on top filled with sand or rock. They would make a perfect little fairy garden. (I haven’t gotten around to asking my local hardware store about what non-toxic sealer I should treat them with, but it’s on my to-do list before the fall rains roll in to keep them from rotting.)
I added a small kiddie pool a few weeks ago to this ever-changing play space for about $8 bucks, which has been a huge hit. There are so many naked-baby (or rather naked-toddler) pool parties going on in our backyard! Juniper adds bath toys, plastic balls, big rocks or floats leaves in the water. When we’re done using the pool, we fill our watering cans from the pool to give our squash and melon plants a big drink of water.
Kids have short attention spans, but putting all of these fairly compact play elements together gives Juniper so many opportunities for open-ended play. She might spend ten minutes in the pool, then run into the teepee to color. Then it’s time to run though the garden searching for berries or collecting rocks and leaves. She’ll add rocks to the pool, then fish them out and arrange them on the stumps. It’s really fun to watch what kind of games and activities she creates from a small, simple play space.
I would love to hear about what your kids love in your backyards! It’s amazing what a little imagination can create in such a small space.