child’s play

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childs play2

The opportunities to  promote child’s play in the garden are endless.  Obviously children can be encouraged to garden themselves, perhaps with their own little plot, but I’m thinking here of actual physical and imaginative play as opposed to ‘learning’. The images above all suggest ways to incorporate ‘natural’ play into the garden but there are many others.

Sand and water are two of the best materials, especially for toddlers, to include in a garden.  Add a child’s own digger toys, buckets, spades etc. and hours and hours of play, (and mess!), are possible.  They may seem rather obvious but these materials never go out of fashion as a child’s creative imagination can really be let loose.  If you are worried about cat mess in sand then use a sand pit.  If you are worried about water and safety then very shallow rills, (e.g. for dam building or boat sailing), are a really good idea or just have containers than can be filled on a temporary basis.

Other materials, such as timber and logs, can also be left in the garden for construction purposes. These can be made into different features dependent upon what game a child is playing.  More prescriptive items such as say, a bought structure specifically in the shape of a castle or boat, may limit a child’s imagination in that their use is already ‘fixed’.  Better to use/supply more abstract materials that can be a spaceship one day, a fairy castle the next, a submarine the day after.

Vegetation can also be creatively used at little cost.  Thickets of soft plantings, say grasses or bamboo, readily lend themselves to use as ‘jungles’; paths can be mown through long grass to create ‘secret’ trails to follow, (and you can periodically mow these out on different routes to help mix things up a bit); willow cuttings can be woven into living tunnels and dens.

Taking some of these ideas a bit further, trails can incorporate items such as logs to balance on, boulders to jump from or simple stepping stones; mown grass paths can be developed into spirals, labyrinths and mazes, (or these can be more permanently laid out, say with bricks set into grass); dens, and other focal points, can be created using low soil mounds covered with turf, (one of the nicest features I ever saw in a park was a series of simple horse-shoe turf dens laid out across the park – the opportunities for games of tig etc. with such dens being safe places were endless).

Perhaps the most important thing to consider overall is that, with a little imagination, the garden, (or a small part of it), can be used to provide a rich, flexible, creative and safe environment for play without having to resort to buying expensive features from toy shops.



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