Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Ready for Spring! (Our Outdoor Playspace)

Today it was 65 degrees here in Maine. Six. Ty. Five. De. Grees! I cannot believe how warm and lovely the weather has been here- balmy and inviting- scarcely reminiscent of my childhood here in the State Farthest East... and yet, here it is, practically Spring in March. It puts me in mind of seedlings, lovely picnics, muddy feet...

...and the yard! Oh dearie, dearie me- the yard! We have worked hard over the past six years to create a lot of learning and playing opportunities out-of-doors for our kids. Today being the first day of true, honest-to-goodness "spring is almost here" profundity, I was inspired to take pictures of our outdoor playspace to share with you.

Please leave a link and share your outdoor playspace as well so that we can be mutually inspired- there is no time of year quite like Spring to make everything seem possible and every home-improvement task real, no?

A bit of warning... caveat... to these photos. I feel almost as if this is a true confessions post! I have not doctored the photos or the landscape- this is my yard, complete with mud, dog and chicken poop, and everything in between- at the beginning of the season before I have raked, planted, cleaned, rearranged... well, you get the idea. It's a raw look at the Simple Little Home, to say the least. *sigh*

We have balance beams to promote gross motor skill development:
 A few climbers to promote imaginary play (in almost all scenarios one of these is a merchant ship and the other a pirate ship...)
 We have a couple of play houses, one of which Daddy built himself (hint: it's not the plastic one) to promote social exploration and play:
 We have slides and other play equipment appropriate for the under 2 set:
 We have wagons and wheelbarrows perfect for developing "building" play:
 We have a space to eat and do crafts outside, taking full advantage of the Great Outdoors:
 We have another homemade balance beam, made from repurposed lumber to again emphasize balance and coordination:

 We have one battery powered tractor just for plain fun:
 We have a large sandbox to inspire construction of every sort (it is stocked with a digger, various trucks, buckets and shovels, plus some scrap PVC piping which the kids use frequently to make tunnels and sewers):
 We have a variety of ride-on toys for gross motor development and coordination:
 We have a collection of construction vehicles which "live" outside the parameters of a sandbox. They require a large, open space of dirt with no restriction:
 We have small play kitchens in our playhouses to inspire mud-pie making:
 We keep several container gardens (this year they will become their own raised bed garden) for the kids to use for their own purposes. They plant and harvest as they will- it's the free-will approach to gardening that Mommy and Daddy don't want practiced on our gardens, per se...
We keep backyard chickens, which are optional. They never cease to amaze, however:
Not pictured: our kiddie pool, parachute, bikes, balls and soccer goals- mostly because these items are all still frozen to the ground despite today's warm temperatures. Ah, I love Maine.

A small note about my backyard toy and amusement philosophy: we don't pay actual money for this stuff. Almost everything pictured we inherited from friends, made from our own leftovers, or at the very least found very inexpensively on Craigslist. We paid $175 for our swingset three years ago, and that is more than what we paid for everything else in our yard combined. I tell you this because it isn't that I feel each one of these things is necessary for a great outdoor playspace: on the contrary, I believe that children will use whatever they have available to them to create dynamic, interesting play. Rather, I share with you what we have in our yard to 1) inform that these things can be found very inexpensively, 2) to share that children can use what is available to them to create fun, and 3) to inspire you with ways that we have found successfully promote play with our children.

What about you? What types of things do you use to inspire outdoor play with your kids?

9 comments:

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE your backyard!! We currently have a sad excuse for a backyard and are looking to update it this spring. Most of it consists of an old deck with nails sticking up and an odd collection of patio spaces...I cannot W A I T to rip it all out and replace it with something similar to what you have! :D I agree..kids will use what they have to create meaningful play.

    Oh, to answer your question...because of the not-so-kid-friendly backyard, we spend time in the front and we have some ride on toys and cars, trikes, water table and kiddie pool (when weather is warm, sidewalk chalk, buckets, ball popper push toy, etc. :)

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  2. Thanks, Katie! I hear you about spending time in the driveway when the backyard isn't hospitable. When we first bought our house it was nothing but forest, both back and front. We spent a lot of time in the driveway that first year. :) You'll have to post pics of your space when you've done it up so we can see!

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  3. You have BALANCE BEAMS! I envy the munchkins.

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  4. Balance beams are a huge hit, to be honest. I don't always think about how fun they are until one of our kids has a friend over and they spend hours walking back and forth, up and down. :)

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  5. I love the balance beams! I have some wood leftover that would be perfect for this! Thanks for the idea. :)

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  6. No problem, Mona. I can't take credit- I have a very dedicated and resourceful spouse!

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  7. AWESOME play space and frugal finds! We are blessed to live a block from our very nice county park, but have been searching for frugal finds for our yard for the days we just don't feel like going out (or more-so, getting out of our PJ's). We have recently been offered a very nice playset for FREE...just trying to get it moved. :/ Outdoor learning and skill mastery is just priceless!!!

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