Create a campsite: Defined outdoor spaces help to provide a sense of safety and encourages imaginary play for children. Creating a campsite is as simple as clearing a space beneath a large evergreen tree or hanging a “Susie’s Camp” sign on the limb of a large maple tree. Children enjoy personalizing their spaces of imaginary play. However, providing a couple logs to sit on or planting a few sword ferns may be helpful.
Add Pathways: Children are drawn to pathways that have reoccurring themes. It is important to stick with one type of path material and use it throughout such as, pea gravel, brick, crushed rock, stone or sand. Incorporating trails and pathways between indoor and outdoor spaces help to lure kids to go outside and play and enjoy nature.
Allow movable parts: As we all know, children tend to break things. By placing moveable items in the garden helps to keep children intrigued and busy. Try out one or all of these ideas: place a collection of driftwood sticks along the edge of a flower bed; fill a hollowed out stump with pine cones, or hide a colorful ball in a tall shrub for a game of hide-and-seek.
Incorporate Berms or Hills: A change in topography will add energy into a play area. Children enjoy running up and down small hills and creating games to fit the occasion. To incorporate a fun and attractive berm, create a grassy knoll with a few large boulders, bamboo tubes, and ornamental grasses.
As a landscape architect and advocate for connecting people to nature, I find it beneficial to encourage kid-friendly gardens for outdoor play areas. The trend of designing natural play areas for children is becoming more and more popular in public parks and schools yards. Natural play areas are less expensive to build than traditional play structures, encourage creative thinking, are aesthetically pleasing, and better for the environment.
Author: Susan Combs Bauer, Landscape Architect and Founder of BauerCombs & Associates, Inc.
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Susan Combs Bauer, Landscape Architect www.bauercombs.com