Monday, June 20, 2011

Ideas for adding natural elements to your outdoor play space - Part 4

Let's face it - kids are drawn to dirt. 

Digging patches are a simple and cost effective way to add natural play elements to a playscape - and provide endless hours of open-ended play and fun.

I've rounded up some images to show you how preschools are incorporating digging patches outdoors:  

Play Paves the Way

Caring Connections Natural Playscape

A digging patch can be spontaneous: 
Months of determined digging by 3 and 4 year olds armed with plastic shovels has resulted in a long gully snaking along where there used to be grass. It began with a hole dug by 4 kids in one class. Then the next class spotted it and dug a little more. The next class continued the work, and every day it gets a little longer, a little deeper - Image of Learning Project

Or defined by a border of stones, logs or wood:

Or how about a dirt pile?  What could be simpler than ordering a load of dirt?

Challenged for space?  You can still provide opportunities for kids to dig in the dirt and play in the mud:

Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning
What about a dirt patch at home?  Look for, or create, a place with loose dirt in your garden that you can designate for the kids.  Anna from the Imagination Tree created a little patch of the garden for her kids:
Image: Digging Patch or Play Garden from The Imagination Tree
Or simpler still:

Simple Mom

The Dirt on Digging Patches
  • Use loose soil.  You can buy this from your local nursery.
  • Lighten the soil by mixing in a few bags of sand and/or mulch to make digging easier. 
  • Mix in approximately 1/3 sand to 2/3 soil to give you a diggable mix. 
  • boundaries of the digging patch can be defined with shrubs, smoothboulders, logs, planks or bricks.
  • Turn over the soil regularly to prevent it from compacting.
  • Adding grass clippings or sand periodically will help keep the soil workable.

You might also enjoy:

::: 7 Tips for Mud Play at Preschool
::: Dirt Patches @ Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning
::: Digging Patch @ Busy Brissy Mum
::: Natural Environments Photographs @ Department of Education and Early Childhood Education
::: Making the Most of What You Have @ An Amazing Child

Remember, great nature play doesn’t need elaborate and expensive play spaces - even a limited outdoor area or a preschool on a tight budget can be enhanced for nature play.  Common found or resourced natural materials can create a world of small scale wonders and magical discoveries for young children.

Do you have images of your digging patch or dirt play you would like to share? 

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