I recently hosted a party for friends and their families. I was surprised at the comments I received about my garden being an exciting place for children as I often think of it as small with too many trees and very little grass. I’ve worked hard to make it an enticing play space and most of the materials have incurred little or no cost. Here is a little tour.
The water wall is a recent project. The pipe came from an old vacuum cleaner and the other containers are empty bottles. The containers are fastened to the tree using nails and pipe cleaners or threaded through markers for obstacle courses. The tyre at the base is to help my youngest daughter to reach.
The good thing about the water table is that we can move it to different parts of the garden. It is perfect as a water source for the water wall . Other materials can also be used in the water table like the packing peanuts the children built sculptures with in the picture above.
Potions and Mud Pies
This is one of the children’s favourite activities and we have experimented with a variety of potion stations and mud kitchens. This is our current set up. The plastic tub was purchased very cheaply after Hallowe’en and fits perfectly inside a tyre. A split pallet in between is the workspace and another tyre with planks of wood laid over is where I set out materials for them to experiment with. Test tubes, containers and sticks for mixing are conveniently located in storage nearby.
I didn’t know these mud tables existed until one was offered on my local Buy Nothing Group. It would be easy to make something similar with a washing up bowl on a stand.
I have tried different positions for mud table and play kitchen and I am still unsure which works best. Currently they are close to each other but not in the same space so that the mud table, potion station and kitchen can be used together or separately.
Storage on the trees. The containers hold kitchen utensils for the kitchen and pans hang on hooks screwed into the tree.
The children love this sandbox that I bought second-hand. It is really sturdy and has held out really well. The trees in our garden offer lots of shade so the girls can often be found making up imaginative games in the sandbox.
I use a storage net from Ikea to store the smaller sand toys, water toys and small balls and hang it from a tree branch.
The girls are always making little paper signs to include in their play so I added a chalk board to the tree. I placed it near to their play shop so that they could use it as a sign.
The spool table another space for mark making
My eldest daughter created this puppet theatre using a sheet and a few sticks jammed between 2 trees. I nailed the sticks into the tree to stop them falling and added a board from a broken picture frame for them to write on. This could be painted with chalkboard paint but works just as well without.
We were donated a large amount of fake flowers last Summer and we used them to create a flower shop using an old plant stand and their play till. We could also use the puppet theatre with a table behind it. The girls use cars and waggons as the delivery vehicles.
The Fairy Garden
Another Ikea purchase but something similar could also be made using a hula hoop and ribbon or tulle. I hang it from a tree and put cushions and books inside.
We also use a parasol for a shady spot. The girls recently created a face painting station beneath it. The parasol came with our water table and doesn’t have a stand. I used the stand for my Christmas tree.
Sometimes they use my umbrella propped up on the porch for shade.
Of all of the things we have in the garden, the one that is used the most by all of the children, is the trampoline. We have a Springfree trampoline that I was lucky enough to win in a competition. They are not the cheapest trampolines but based on amount of use and durability, had I bought the trampoline, it would have been a worthwhile investment. The trampoline is overshadowed by trees so the girls keep a broom next to it and brush off fallen leaves and seeds before getting on. They have created a number of games to play, make up shows or practice gymnastics and often my eldest disappears to the trampoline for a bit of peace and quiet.
The balance beam is strung between 2 trees with paracord.
We use tyres to make obstacle courses. Getting rain water out of them is also an interesting challenge for my youngest.
I’ve made ribbon sticks before using sticks bought from a craft shop. These sticks collected from the garden work just as well. The ribbon can be glued onto the sticks or simply tied. Ribbon sticks with multiple ribbons work well too.
Our music garden is housed between small trees. We made a jingle stick by nailing metal bottle tops to an old broom handle.
My daughter made this nesting box and this year for the first time we were rewarded with a family of nesting sparrows. You could hear the hungry little chicks as their parents flew close to them and we spent a lot of time lying in the hammock watching them going in and out of the bird house.
Other regular visitors are squirrels, hummingbirds and an occasional racoon.
I am always interested in gathering new ideas for outdoor play spaces. If you are interested too, follow my Pinterest boards: Outdoor Play, Children’s Garden Inspiration and Forest School.