5 Natural Backyard Play Structures

DIY Teepees

     chuck b.  @Flickr.com

 

chuck b. @Flickr.com

What you need:

  • 6-9 Bamboo poles or 2 by 2 lumber, approximately 4-5 feet tall.
  • A spool of String
  • Seeds of viney plants (e.g., pole beans)

            The general idea of these tents is to provide a magical retreat from blazing sunshine. There is a variety of ways to make these tents. You can either use 2 by 2 scrap lumber or bamboo poles, as long as your material is between 4-5 feet tall. Tie 6-9 poles together at the top and open the bottoms of the poles into a large circle. You may want to include a slightly gaped opening on one side for entry of bigger children, so leave about 3 feet between the front two poles and evenly disperse the other poles for stability. Loop rope or string between each pole of the tee-pee except for between the entry poles. Strings should go up the structure, with only 5-6 inches between each row to add support to your structure and provide a ladder for beans or other viney plants to climb up. Plant your favorite vine all the way around the tee-pee, save the entry hole. 

For a visual representation of this process, and other variations of it, see this site:

https://www.fix.com/blog/making-the-most-of-small-gardens/

Log or rock circles

What you need:

 virginia.state.parks @wikimedia.org

virginia.state.parks @wikimedia.org

  • 10-20 large rocks or cut logs

            These are free and easy to create! Arrange logs or large rocks in concentric circles or other patterns, close enough for little ones to hop or walk across. Using logs or rocks of different heights can increase difficulty for older children.

For more ideas about log and rock circles, check out this site:

http://ourdayourjourney.blogspot.com.au/search/label/a%20natural%20playground

Sandpit

What you need:

 hyena@wikimedia.org

hyena@wikimedia.org

  • 3-4 bags of sand (may be more or less depending on how large your pit is)
  • Kitchen measuring instruments or themed plastic toys
  • Tarp or kiddie pool to contain sand (optional)
  • Large rocks or logs   

            There are few things that I have seen children more attracted to than a pile of dirt. During my years in childcare, one of the best-loved stations were the sand and water tubs, with their various kitchen measuring instruments, toy construction trucks, and sea creatures. Transforming an unused corner of the yard into an outdoor imaginary kitchen, construction zone, or zoo is fairly straight-forward. Dig up about 5 inches deep and however wide you wish. I have seen some families submerge a kiddie pool or tarp to better contain their sand and make it easier to transition from a sand pit to a water pit (if you so desire). Fill with sand and surround with rocks or logs to define the area. Then fill with play items that fit your child’s interests or just a variety of animals, trucks, cups, measuring items, etc. so that your child’s imagination can take them wherever they wish. In the summer time, trade your sand with water for a splashy and fun mix-up.

For elaborate versions of this, check out The Sandpit and The Quarry sections on this awesome site:

http://www.theempowerededucatoronline.com/2015/01/landscaping-natural-playspaces-for-children-our-progress-so-far.html/

Tree Climbers

 found at: publicdomainpictures.net

found at: publicdomainpictures.net

What you need:

  • 2-3 2 by 4 lumber
  • Drill or nail gun

            Children seem to be naturally drawn to climbing trees. I remember climbing my great grandfather’s grapefruit trees in his backyard. The branches were low, granting me access to the very top of the tree. Around here, climbable trees are few and far between, but this hack solves that problem. By drilling or nailing 1 - 1.5 foot long 2-by-4s into the tree from about 2 feet off the ground and 1 foot apart up to the lowest branch, you can encourage the natural climber in your child.

For an example of this, see the following article:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/kid_play_zones_in_parks_leave_no_trace_inhibits_fun_and_bonding_with_nature.html

Tire swings & their alternatives

 wicker.paradise@flicker.com

wicker.paradise@flicker.com

What you need:

  • Varies based on project           

            Throughout my browsing during my research for this PDF, I came across some interesting and unique takes on the classic tire swing. To encourage climbing, one idea is a single, thick rope hanging from a high tree branch with a knot at the bottom for assistance. Another option is to use a skateboard instead of a tire for a more modern take. For a tutorial, see:

http://www.littlebitfunky.com/2012/05/20-minute-crafter-skateboard-swing.html?m=1

Finally, an interesting take is a hanging ladder. For this, you’ll need about 12 sturdy sticks in 4 different sizes and rope. Drill holes about 1 inch in from each end of all the sticks. Arrange the sticks into 4 triangles with their alike-sized siblings, with the drilled holes lined up. Weave the rope through one hole on the first triangle, tie securely, tie a second knot about 8 inches above your first triangle, weave through one hole on the second triangle, and tie securely. About 12 inches up from your second triangle, tie another knot and weave through one hole of the 3rd triangle. Repeat about 12 inches up with your 4th triangle. Repeat this with all 3 corners of your triangle until you get a ladder. Tie all the ropes right under the bottom triangle securely and about 2 feet up from the top triangle. From the top knot, you may attach to a d clip key chain and then the other end of the D clip to a rope connected to your tree branch.

See the following for a visual representation of the tree ladder:

https://www.howweelearn.com/waldorf-in-our-home/