It’s important to create outdoor play spaces for children. Councils often don’t have much vision beyond installing skateboards in parks. But it’s green space that children need. Richard Louv says all children need a daily dose of ‘Vitamin N’. He found doctors see less broken bones (no falling from trees), but more repetition strain injury (computer games) and depression. He writes of his sadness when one child told him the happiest place was inside the house as ‘that’s where all the sockets were’. Richard recalls that back in his day ‘Nature was my Ritalin’.
If gardening with children, many plants are toxic to pets – as is cocoa mulch, pine mulch and fresh compost. If gardening near animal friends, see how to make garden areas safe for pets. If growing food, see humane methods to deter slugs & snails. Use no-dig methods to avoid harming earthworms.
- Asphalt to Ecosystems is a book by a schoolyard designer, and includes examples of over 150 schools in 11 countries, with 500 colour photos. Case studies include edible gardens with fruit trees and wildlife habitats (see the post on ponds)..
- Nature Play at Home is a book by Nancy Striniste who shows you how to make natural outdoor adventures. With hundreds of inspiring ideas and illustrated project, this book shows how to create play spaces that use logs, boulders, sand, water and plants. Projects include hillside slides, seating circles and sand pits.
- Wild Child (by nature writer Patrick Barkham) draws on his experience as a parent and forest school volunteer, to explore the relationship between children and nature. Unfolding over the course of a year of snowsuits, muddy wellies and sunhats – this is a story of children finding their place.
- Marmax Recycled Products makes brightly coloured playground furniture from recycled milk bottle jugs. The range includes cabins, boats, sand pits, wheelchair-friendly picnic benches and board games.
- Fresh Air Fitness makes outdoor exercise equipment for parks. They also design equipment for schools and children with special needs.
- Put On Your Owl Eyes is a super book to open your senses to nature’s secrets. Beautifully illustrated, this is like a book course by the author (who runs environmental summer camps for children in the US). Learn to find a ‘sit spot’ to stop and notice nature. Then enjoy fun exercises, including how to make ‘deer ears’ to hear better!
Better choices for England’s playgrounds abound, but it’s up to visionary councils to install them. Of course, the best outdoor playground is nature. But this post is more about conventional playground equipment: slides and swings etc. Most sold today are made from plastic, and others are not very interesting for young children to get exercise. There are some really innovative ideas around, let’s take a look.
Do-It-Yourself Backyard Playgrounds offers hand-drawn user-friendly plans to offer timeless projects that can be made in an afternoon: a trolley ride, treasure chest, circle swing and lemonade stand. Learn how to build a children’s adventure course and treehouse, with photos of construction and completed projects.
Marmax Products offers quality children’s playground equipment. The difference is that this is made from recycled plastic bottles. So not only uses up waste, but also is fun and colourful, easy to clean and never rots (so lasts much longer). The range includes playhouses, adventure cabins, boats, sandpits, trains and disabled-friendly playground equipment and benches. Peak Playgrounds also offers similar products including fitness trails.