Our backyard isn't your typical suburban backyard. It isn't very big and it's more bumpy than flat, so it doesn't lend itself to a typical playground set (and y'all know how much we love playgrounds!). However we are completely surrounded by trees and so we've been working on a plan to harness the landscaping and use it to our advantage, and build a natural playground. This is a playground that is built of mainly natural materials and uses the landscaping as-is, rather than trying to bend the landscaping to suit your needs.
We were recently in the Annapolis Valley staying at a family cottage and decided to pop in to the natural playground in Bridgetown for a little research. At first our kids drew up short and didn't really get it. After all, it looked nothing like the playgrounds they were used to. But then they got curious...
This cool rock climbing wall led to a plastic slide that was built into the grassy knoll. Miss M conquered the wall in no time.
Mr M gave it the old college try and got up with some spotting, but his legs are still a bit too short to reach the steps on his own (I Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller is his anthem).
The most exciting part for me was after we ate lunch Miss M saw some kids her age climbing the tree nearby and said she'd like to try. We don't see kids climbing trees in the city and she'd never even considered it as a possibility before I'm sure. It reminded me of what someone whom I interviewed for an article I did on risky play said:
Maura Donovan is a Dartmouth parent who is passionate about allowing children room to explore independently. She says her benchmark of a society’s comfort level of risk in play is how many children she sees climbing trees.
“I think if you’ve got four or five kids in front of you and none of them are that interested in climbing trees, that says something,” she explains. “School-age kids really like to climb trees, if they’ve been exposed to that as a possibility.”
Miss M saw that many of them were barefoot so she asked to go that way too so we obliged and she took right to it. She didn't get very high but stepped and manoeuvred and explored to her heart's content.
Our little man wanted to give it a go too and gamely climbed the gnarled and twisted tree (with a little support from Dad).
We definitely left feeling inspired to start work on our yard and need to narrow down all of our ideas to make a good plan, but I'm hoping the kids will have loads of fun exploring the "wilderness" in their own backyard for years to come. Big, flat, green, grassy lawns? Bah, who needs 'em!