Thursday, June 16, 2016

Creating Naturalistic play spaces- PART 2: ADDING FUN FEATURES TO YOUR GARDEN

Creating a natural playscape for a childcare setting can be quite an investment. As tempted as we may be by all the ideas swarming Pinterest, the reality is that many of us cannot afford such fantastic features or don't have the time nor the skills to design them. That's why I've started writing about easy, simple and cost-effective ways to implement outdoor play ideas using mainly natural materials or recycled materials.

Welcome to Part 2 of our new series "Creating Naturalistic play areas": Adding fun features to your play area.

Today, I am going to show you what I have done so far to add a bit of fun in our preschool outdoor area.

  1. Our school Bus brings us all around the Continents
Are you fed up with plastic cars in your garden? I know I was. I hate plastic. Full stop. I know I sometimes can't avoid it and it does have its advantage. But let's face it... Platic toys look horrible! I was looking for something more "natural" and something that bring on the imagination of the children.. My husband and my younger son have quads. Big fanatics. We are blessed to live right by the sea and a huge long beautiful burrow full of natural resources. I asked my husband if it would be possible to bring one of the many washed out logs we find on our shore. Would the quad be strong enough to drag one home? No problem, he said. Here is the story of our new "School Bus" in photos:

Once home, my husband used the chain saw to cut out seats. He bought 2 threaded bar for about €12 and attached 2 real steering wheels to them. I had been asking several friends who owns garages and farms if they would have an old steering wheel laying idle somewhere and I was very lucky to be donated 2 of them. So our bus has 2 steering wheels which means 2 happy bus drivers!!

2. Add balancing beams 

We bought 3 logs altogether. With the 2nd one, we made a balancing beam laying the log on 2 tree stumps. I placed the beam beside our enclosing fence as some of the children are still finding it hard to find their balance and feel more secure holding on to something. But I can always move it further away from the fence once the children feel more confident. 

3. Add benches 

And with our 3rd log, we made a cute little bench, blending in nicely against the background. The twisty look of it does add effect to it, I must say! I could have bought kiddies' bench anywhere but this is definitely more in cue with my idea of cost-effective and "naturalistic" deco!!!

4. Add a "Chalk" area in your garden

Outside, children are often observed talking more, cooperating, socialising and doing many literacy activities of their own free will and choice. Children love writing and scribbling in the sand pit or in the mud.. So I added a black board underneath our tree house. I took measurements and bought 2 boards of plywood for €23 and a pot of outdoor chalk paint for €12. I was very adventurous and did the whole job ALL BY MYSELF! It took me HOURS!!!! But the children loved it and it was all worth it.

I also re-purposed old slate roof shingle for chalk board and laid them plainly on our gravel path...

5. Add tree trumps everywhere

We have big tall pine trees around our site and over the years, many of them had to be cut off. Hence the plentiful supply of tree trumps. What can you do with them? Tables, stools, stepping stone course etc... You get my drift. It's free, natural and very effective.

6. Add colour and art to your garden

I wanted to add colour to our garden (other than all the flowers growing in our flower beds). I needed the children to be part of the process. Once again, I turned to our burrow to pick up a big driftwood/branch. I let it dry for a few days by our fireplace and sanded it. I then brought the children outside and got them to paint sections of the branch with whatever colour they chose. The children really took to this art activity and their concentration was amazing. We let it dry for a day and I varnished it. We then had a chat on where it should go (the front of our preschool) and we still have to decide on how to display it. At the moment, it is just standing against the front wall but I will have to either put it in concrete or hand it directly to the wall. 

The children called it the "Friendship Branch"!

There are many other ways to add colours to your naturalistic garden. This is just an idea. If you have any more ideas, please share with us and leave a comment below. I would love to hear about it. If you have missed the previous 2 posts on our "Naturalistic outdoor areas" series, please check below. 

Creating naturalistic play areas: IntroductionCreating naturalistic play areas: ADD SAND & GRAVEL

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