Thursday, January 27, 2011

create a natural playscape in your own backyard

By adding some elements of a natural playscape to your own backyard - sand, water, dirt, wild spaces, places to hide and more - you can create a magical place for your children to explore, create, imagine and play.

Here are some of the wonderful things our fellow bloggers are doing in their own backyards:


The Wonder Years

 Two Chicks and a Hen

Bamboo Pole Bean and Pea Teepee:


Mud Pie Kitchen:

You can read more about mud pie kitchens here and here and here.

Mud Patch:

Tips for Backyard Nature Play:

Nature Play as a Subversive Activity is a wonderful article by the Green Hearts Institute that offers 8 playful tips for making urban and suburban living a bit more “play-full!” that include:

Throw Trash in Your Backyard
Kids love to play with a wide assortment of “loose parts” — things to build and create with, over and over again. Give your kids a heaping pile of sticks, logs, corn stalks, pine cones, large rocks, sheets of plywood or heavy cardboard, old tarps, etc. While you’re at it, lay a modest piece of scrap plywood in a quiet corner of your yard where it will create a dark microhabitat for bugs and other tiny beasties — just waiting for kids to peak in on!

Give Away Your Yard
But keep it in the family! Designate a chunk of your backyard as your kids’ play zone — the place where they can dig, build, plant, un-plant, hide, and cause general mayhem, to their hearts’ delight. Use your computer skills to create an official-looking lease, giving them all rights to that corner. They’ll love being land barons! Be sure to have a properly formal signing ceremony
A Parent's Guide to Nature Play

You might also like to download Green Hearts' fabulous booklet called Parents Guide to Nature Play.  It is filled with information and tips so  you can learn about what makes great nature play, why it is important, and how you can restore it to your children’s daily lives. 

The nature play movement is growing at an amazing pace, and it’s happening because folks all over the country are stepping up to bring outdoor play back to their kids. These aren’t people with PhDs in play, or Masters in mud. They are just individuals, like you, who care about how their children are growing up. Green Hearts Institute


  1. Great post Jenny! I have an area in my backyard which I'm thinking of using as a bit of a project to create something like this. I'm enlisting Sherry as my laborer! We have some planning to do but we'll keep a photographic diary and see what we can create. We'll keep you posted!
    Donna :) :)

  2. I love the great resources and ideas you share for creating amazing play spaces for children. I gave you an award at

  3. I love this and 100% agree with the need for children to be outside as much as possible. This is very much the way we worked when I was teaching and we were looking to develop it more too. What a wonderful natural resource you have! I have linked to this post in my Friday Favourites this week.

  4. I have been reading through all your posts on nature play and outside playscapes and I love them! But they also make me a little sad.

    I work in a childcare centre that is surrounded by tall office buildings and the playground is entirely softfall. There are no trees. We have a small vegtable garden but becasue of the heat radiated from the offices during the day it is extremely hard to make anything grow.
    We have a sandpit.

    Do you have any ideas on how to incorporate nature play into this type of early childhood environment - children in these environments need it so much! (and the teachers need it too)

  5. Jenny, just discovered your blog. I love this post with pictures of lovely outdoor play spots for children. My children are grown and gone but it reminds me of when they were little. We didn't have the most beautiful yard but it was interesting and fun for my own children and half the neighborhood. If you don't have a hundred acre wood, you can have a grassy hideaway with real dirt under the raspberry brambles.

  6. I am always inspired by the outdoor play spaces you find and wish so badly that we didn't live in a rental house with a tiny concreted courtyard. I did really enjoy the Rusty Keeler series and have tried to incorporate what he said as much as possible.

    I'm going to keep hoping that someday we live in a place of our own and I have the freedom to create a magical outdoor play space for my children.

  7. Deb: Thanks for the award - always very exciting to hear that someone is enjoying reading the blog :)

    Anna: Thanks for the link love!

    Erin: I have my thinking cap on and will hunt out some ideas for you for a future post. Meanwhile, I put the call out on my facebook page for ideas .

    Lunette, welcome - and I couldn't agree more. I love looking at pics of play spaces and they don't have to be the 100 acre wood!

    Kate, thanks so much for commenting. It warms the cockles of my heart when I read that someone was inspired by my posts. You are not alone in not having a space to create a natural playscape, which is why I think it is so important that we see more of them in our communities and early childhood centres.

  8. All those backyards look amazing. I cannot wait to add some of those elements to our yard this summer. Heading into blog world to check out the parents and teachers behind those great scenes. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Inspiring as always, Jenny. You are great at helping us see the importance of kids being outside. Thanks.

  10. Thanks for the lovely feature in your post Jenny! That gravel pit is a fantastic idea. My two year old would just go crazy with his diggers in there!!

    I <3 Backyard Nature Play!!

  11. Thanks Abbie, Scott and Cath - and no probs Cath - I love your backyard!

  12. This is a fantastic post, Jenny. Now that the air is warming up around here, I'm spending more time outside and the wheels are spinning with ideas for making our yard more kid-friendly. It's a tiny postage stamp plot of land, but I bet we can come up with something wonderful thanks to all of these good ideas.

  13. I just discovered this blog and love your ideas! My 15 month old and I have been going outside together since day one. One thing to keep in mind is that little ones can make fun out of about anything outside. We don't always have to give them special toys/spaces. This morning, my daughter played with the drop rod on the gate turning it around and back, watched me divide iris, smelled flowers, squealed at geese overhead and banged rocks on a table. For even more ideas, check out Baby Development at Thanks for such a creative post!