I really appreciate the importance of outdoor play for my kids and that’s why I’m always encouraging them to go play and explore outside.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can utilize the natural environment in my backyard to create an awesome outdoor play area.
I wanted my children’s play environment to be more natural as opposed to the brightly-colored equipment that is the norm for most playgrounds these days.
In addition to that, I wanted my kids to experience the joy of playing in a natural environment just like I did when I was growing up.
In those days, we really didn’t have much playground equipment and so we had to rely on our imagination to play with natural elements.
Having natural play spaces helps the kids to be more imaginative in their play. It also develops their motor skills and social skills.
Materials Used in Natural Play Spaces
1. Stepping stones or stumps
Bury boulders securely in the ground so they don’t tip over as kids jump or step from one to the other.
Re-purpose a removed tree by using stumps instead. Kids love paths, but this kind can double as little tables or whatever their hearts desire.
2. Balance beams
Studies have shown that balance beams are important yet fun activities for kids.
The mere act of balancing teaches kids the concept of sides (awareness of left and right are important pre-reading skills) and also makes them aware of where their body is in a certain space.
Experts suggest the latter helps kids learn the ability to sit still in class and remain stable in chairs.
Find a log and stabilize it on the ground. An effective balance beam doesn’t need to be a tall one.
3. Trees to climb
One of my favorite activities as a child was finding trees to climb. However, I always worry when I see my kids doing it because it can be dangerous.
Tree climbing is great for your child’s cognitive ability- that is, his ability to think, understand, communicate, remember, imagine, and work out what might happen next.
4. Natural hiding spots
Providing natural hiding spots for your kids helps them feel secure and comfortable when they’re outside. It gives them a sense of privacy.
In addition to that, it also gives them an added space to play fun games like hide and seek.
5. Grassy hills
There are so many fun uses for a steep grassy hill.
Your kids can have fun rolling down the hill or riding their bikes. In addition to that, you can also play a variety of games on the hill including tag and hide-and-go-seek.
You need to build shelter in your natural play space to protect the kids from the elements like the sun.
For example, you can grow a vine as walls or vegetables in your backyard.
Alternatively, you can build a teepee using bamboo and drape burlap over the sides.
7. Digging space
You do not need a sandbox to finish the design of your natural outdoor play area.
Simply dump some sand in a pile or muddy up some dirt to create an area where kids can get a little messy by digging.
For added security, you can place a border around the area so the kids don’t wander off.
It’s important that you provide supervision for your kids as they’re playing outside because accidents can happen.
However, you must realize that kids will take a tumble every once in a while so don’t worry yourself too much!