July 23, 2015

In this post we share simple, low cost ways to create a natural outdoor play space that we discovered on Let the children play. Natural spaces of wonder and adventure engage the senses, spark the imagination and invite children to explore and discover. Using open-ended, natural materials can transform a backyard into a place where childhood memories and valuable connections to the natural world can be made.

What Natural Elements do I include?

Water
Water is a delightfully sensory and open-ended quality makes water irresistible to children of all ages and abilities.  Water calms, cools and encourages children to explore, experiment, discover, imagine and create. For ideas on ways to incorporate water into your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-water.html

Vegetation
Vegetation in their play spaces.  They enjoy and learn as they climb, hide, build, pick, observe, collect, sort, tend, plant, water, prune, manipulate and arrange the things that grow in a garden. For ideas on ways to incorporate vegetation into your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-greenery.html

Animals and insects
Children have a natural curiosity about insects and animals, so it is not surprising to find that if it crawls, creeps, flies, squirms, wiggles or swims then children want it in their play spaces. For ideas on ways to incorporate animals and insects into your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-animals-insects-and-creatures.html

Sand
Sand is another of nature’s endlessly intriguing open-ended sensory materials.  Sand appeals to children of all ages.  They dig in it, sift it, build with it, pour it, enjoy the feel and smell of it, pretend with it and explore how it moves. For ideas on ways to incorporate sand into your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-sand.html

Natural colour, diversity and change
A simple arrangement of rocks and logs and earthworks has a high play value and can be vastly less expensive than the pipe-rail and plastic structures too common in the municipal landscape. Kids love to play on and with rocks, boulders, fallen logs and tree stumps. For ideas on ways to add natural colour, diversity and change to your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-stones-logs-stumps-and-mounds.html

Different levels, nooks, crannies, places to hide
Spaces to pause, spaces to hide, spaces to meet, small spaces; secret places: children love to have nooks, crannies, cubbies and places to kick back and relax in their play spaces. For ideas on ways to add different levels, nooks, crannies and places to hide to your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-places-to-pause-places-to-hide.html

Structures or objects that can be changed, including lots of loose parts
Children love to play with “loose parts” which they can move about, use for their own self-selected construction projects and incorporate into their dramatic play. For ideas on ways to add changeable objects to your play space –
http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/04/just-add-loose-parts.html

Check out some of our printable outside activities here.
Live outside the box at Watagan Park

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