Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Greening the Man-Made Outdoors, Part 1

Getting your Green On

It is easy for those of us who work in early childhood settings with natural play spaces to advocate for children's right to play in natural surroundings.  

For many of us, the reality is more likely to be a play space dominated by soft fall and/or fake grass, surrounded by 4 walls or ugly fencing and barely a tree in sight.

This doesn't mean that the educators in these centres aren't aware of the many benefits of nature to everyone who uses the space.  

What it does mean is that they need to work a little bit harder, think a bit more creatively and engage the team, children and families in a vision of creating a greener outdoor space that offers children the opportunity to develop connections with the natural world and experience the outdoors as a place of wonder and possibility - usually on a very limited budget.

A New Series

Over the next few weeks I will share some simple, cost effective ideas to green your man-made outdoors.  Share them with your teams, share them with the children, share them with your families and use them to create a vision for your own early childhood setting.

Think big, start small, never stop and involve the children every step of the way!

Part 1:  Consider the Walls (and the Fences)

I know of plenty of centres that don't even have a patch of dirt to plant a garden.  If this is you, don't let that stop you adding some plantings to your outdoor space.  Put the walls and fences surrounding your playground to use by creating vertical gardens to plant herbs, vegetables or just to add a touch of green or a splash of natural colour.

Here are some cheap, simple options:

1.  Pallet Wall Garden

The team at Only About Children Seaforth added a pallet garden on the fence in a small, unused section of the nursery playground to create a secret garden:

The children helped with the building and the planting, and named it 'The Magic Garden'.

Only About Children Barton Campus attached a series of pallet wall gardens to their wall:

Pallet Side Note:  

It is not recommended that you grow anything in a pallet that is intended to be eaten.  For safe use of pallets, see here.

2.  Hang up some Gumboots

I attached gumboots and milk containers to some lattice I found in a council clean up using hooks that you can purchase cheaply from the hardware shop:

Mercy Child Care Centre, Thornlie attached their gumboots straight to the fence:

Karana Early Education Centre have teamed a shoe garden with a milk bottle garden made from pallets:

3.  Shelves or boxes on a fence:

4.  A wall garden using old soft drink bottles

Credit:  Only About Children Neutral Bay Campus

5.  Hang up some Pots or Containers:

6.  Climbing Plants

Attach some wire, lattice or even an old gate or bedhead to a fence or wall and you have a frame to train climbing plants:

Like some more gardening inspiration?  You can scroll through my previous gardening posts by starting here.

Over to you.  I would love you to share your own ideas, either by linking in the comments below or on the LTCP Facebook Page.  
Let's all inspire each other!

Next in the series:  Hanging gardens and Pot Plants


  1. Love all the repurposed items! Well done! You'd be surprised what kind of awesome salvage you can find if you just keep you eyes open!

  2. I love your ideas! You are right in that it takes dedication and work on the teacher's part to create a successful outdoor educational play space. I anxiously await more of your creative ideas!

  3. Thank you for this great post! Early childhood education is very important for the educational growth of your children. Starting them out young on the right track will be very beneficial!
    Holly James |

  4. I am impress with your concepts. Well done! Quite useful for kids to know about importance of environment. Thanks!