Kids love playing outdoors, given half a chance. Whether you take them to the local park or for a walk in the woods, natural outdoor environments seem to draw children in to explore and experiment, using their imagination and developing their creativity.
However, if you’re worried about your little ones’ safety in these unprecedented times and you have some outdoor space at home, you could turn a humdrum back garden into an inspiring environment where your kids can have adventures right where you can keep an eye on them.
We’ve put together 5 ideas that even the most DIY challenged dad might attempt over a weekend using basic tools and not much more than a few bits of wood. “Whether you build a play area for the kids or introduce raised beds to the vegetable garden, timber is easily worked and blends seamlessly into the natural surroundings,” says one sustainable timber supplier knowingly.
1. Build a mud kitchen
A mud kitchen combines two favourite children’s play media - water and sand - and puts them in a new, exciting setting. Take elements from the domestic corner and cooking from indoors and enrich them just by being outside - voila! Quite different and more easily accessible than a traditional sandpit, a mud kitchen provides the perfect opportunity to develop physical coordination skills, sensory exploration, imaginative play and social interaction.
In practical terms, you can be as simple or sophisticated in the design & build as you like. Here’s an easy video demonstration using 3 recycled pallets:
2. Create stepping stones
Stepping stones are an excellent way to develop balance and coordination. They’re also great fun and irresistible to kids! You can easily create a small obstacle course in your garden to help your children gain spatial awareness by stepping, hopping and jumping from one stone to the next.
Use cut round logs, widely (and cheaply) available from local timber merchants. As a rule of thumb, each round should be no taller than half of its diameter, so that it cannot fall over easily when a child steps onto it. The idea is to present a physical challenge to be overcome, but without any unacceptable risk.
3. Kids’ vegetable gardening
Vegetable gardening can be an exciting way to engage your little darlings with the Great Outdoors. What’s more, there’s nothing more motivational for eating your greens than if you planted them all by yourself. As a parent, you could have multiple wins here if you play your cards right...
Raised beds are a brilliant choice for your kids’ first vegetable garden. They are easy to put together, good for keeping weeds down and slugs out, and you can do all your gardening standing up. Start with easy crops such as pumpkins and courgettes, runner beans and most varieties of spinach and lettuce.
Here’s how to go about it:
4. Make a hopscotch game
Hopscotch is an age-old pavement game that you probably loved when you were little, and it has certainly stood the test of time. But instead of using chalk to draw number squares on the pavement by the roadside, why not elevate the humble hopscotch and make it a child-safe feature in your garden? All you need is some cheap concrete paving stones and a bit of paint to jazz them up. Don’t forget to add the numbers for each stepping stone.
There are countless ways to design your hopscotch, and you could even let the little one’s join in on it. Here’s just one example of a great weekend project video to inspire you to get cracking:
5. Build a tyre swing
Your child will undoubtedly have come across a basic tyre swing at adventure playgrounds. If you have a big tree in your garden, why not install one at home? For next to no financial outlay you will have outdoor play equipment that your kids and their friends will love to play on.
Take one old car tyre, which your local garage or tyre shop will be happy to give you for nothing. Get rope or chains, depending on the exact design, and easily create a rope & tyre swing for hours of active fun in the garden. Here are two different designs you could try: