Tag Archives: sand play

How to Create a Low-Cost Outdoor Playspace in Your Own Backyard.

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.

Water Play

water wall on tree

 

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.

water table

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.

 potion station

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.

mud pie table
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.
kitchen
Storage on the trees. The containers hold kitchen utensils for the kitchen and pans hang on hooks screwed into the tree.
storage on a tree

Sand


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.
sand box

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.

storage outdoor toys

Mark Making

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.

chalk board

The spool table  another space for mark making
kids play table from an electrical spool.

Imaginative Play

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.
puppet theatre

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 Flower Shop

The Fairy Garden

.fairy garden doorway

Quiet Time

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.

quiet cornerWe 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.

A shady parasol

Sometimes they use my umbrella propped up on the porch for shade.

reading in the sun

Physical Play

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.

trampoline

The balance beam is strung between 2 trees with paracord.

balance beam

We use tyres to make obstacle courses. Getting rain water out of them is also an interesting challenge for my youngest.

rolling tyres

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.

ribbon sticks

 

Sound Making

Our music garden is housed between small trees. We made a jingle stick by nailing metal bottle tops to an old broom handle.

music garden

Observing Nature

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.

nesting sparrows

Other regular visitors are squirrels, hummingbirds and an occasional racoon.

hummingbird feeding

 

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.

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Ideas for Playing Outside in the Rain.

rain

 

Oh no, it’s raining, that means we can’t do all our fun things like playing on the trampoline and in the sandpit!

There are fun things you can do in the rain too.

Like what?

You can splash in puddles, play with mud or catch raindrops.

Can we make potions in the rain?

Rainy days are perfect for making potions.

I know we could use the rain water because there isn’t any water in the paddling pool.

Yes and you could use mud or mush up wet petals.

Later that day we went for an appointment and when we came out the girls found a fast drip coming from the gutter.

Why is this bit of rain faster?

Where is it coming from?

The roof

Yes, it usually means the gutter is blocked so the water doesn’t go down the drain pipe it falls off the end instead.

catching the rain
I’m trying to catch a raindrop but it keeps bouncing

Why can’t we catch it mummy?

The rain is coming down very fast. What happens when you throw a ball hard?

It bounces high

Yes and the rain is coming down very hard and fast so it bounces off your hand.

getting wet
I’m trying to catch a raindrop but it keeps bouncing

Shall we go home now and get dry, you could snuggle up in a blanket.

The girls removed their wet shoes. When we arrived home there was a big puddle outside our gate. I asked my 2-year-old if she would like to be carried or splash in the puddle barefooted. She wasn’t sure at first but then declared – splash!

barefoot in puddles
I’m trying to catch a raindrop but it keeps bouncing

After getting dry and snuggling under blankets for a while we decided to venture out for a while.  I took the dinosaurs to the sandpit and encouraged the girls to make a swamp.

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When the rain had stopped a disappointed 4-year-old complained

Oh, the rain has stopped we can’t play in the swamp anymore

It’s alright, it will stay wet for a while.

I think I may have succeeded in persuading them that playing in the rain is fun.

Other Rainy Day Ideas

  • Take umbrellas outside walk under drips or as my 4-year-old suggested – we could play Mary Poppins.
  • Make patterns with powder paint on the wet ground or on a wet sheet of paper.
  • Put different containers outside, cover them with different materials eg. plastic bag, tin foil, kitchen roll, fabric, netting. Find out which are waterproof.
  • Collect rainwater in containers.
  • Make boats to float in puddles or take out rubber ducks.
  • Make potions, give the children dry goods like flour, sugar or salt. What happens when they get wet?
  • Watch the patterns the rain makes in puddles or as it runs down the window. Have a race – which raindrop will get to the bottom first?
  • Play a dry land race, you are only allowed on dry land and have to avoid all puddles.
  • Build a shelter with bricks for small world people or animals.

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