When you have children you only want the best for them. You also want your children to run around, to play and to be kids. These days with so much technology around it’s so easy to fall into the trap of handing over the iPad, or PlayStation and allowing your children to while away hours in front of a screen. It’s not healthy -–for the mind or for the body. Having an outdoor play area is the perfect way to have a space where your children can play, to run around and an area that encourages their imagination.
An *active* play area
A place to play and toys that encourage them to move about and to be physically active – so important today when we live in a world where childhood obesity IS a real issue. Think beyond just a grassy area where the kids can run around, try and encourage your child to skip, jump, hop, balance, to throw a ball, to swing and so much more. You can achieve this by using equipment such as a trampoline, a slide, an area to ride a small bike, scooter or peddle car, a swing set, skipping ropes, basketball hoop and so much more. For a simple *balance beam* place some old car tyres on the lawn and lay decking planks from tyre to tyre and you have a balance beam that’s low to the ground, easy to move around, and easy to *dispose of* when your children outgrow it.
A *sensory* play area
Adding an area for water, mud or sand will not only make you popular with your youngest children it also helps support brain growth and development. This occurs when children are exposed to experiences that activate any or all of their five senses. Depending on your yard space, a permanent sand pit or mud pit is great, but if you are limited with space you can use smaller tubs to hold sand, water or to make *mud pies* will still work just as well.
A *creative play* area
Here you can choose a creative play area that is tailor-made to your child’s preferred creative outlets – problem-solving, building, music, painting etc. You can choose to install a permanent fixture such as an outdoor chalkboard or a music wall. Again, if space is an issue you can always take a chalkboard outside for the day, or a table and a box full of paints and paste and some cut-outs to release your child’s creative side. A chalkboard can also double really well as an easel!
An *Imaginative play* area
You can add many different elements to your outdoor play area – a pirate ship, a fairy garden, a bear cave or even a jungle safari! You can achieve any imaginative play area by using figurines or toys. For a fairy garden plant some herbs or small pretty flowers and add some cute fairy ornaments, your little one will love having her own garden to look after and her fairy friends to talk to. Your goal is to spark their imagination to let them have fun in their own way, to make up their own stories, to get *lost* in their own little stories and adventures.
A *safe play* area using natural elements
Getting your child helping you in the garden is also another way to help encourage their development. Helping to grow a vegetable or herb garden are great ways to introduce your children to nature.
A quiet or secret space can be anything from a hammock under the trees, a cubby house or fort through to a tent or tepee. Anywhere that gives your child a place to go to be alone, to be quiet, to read a book or play with their toys. They can imagine they are anywhere in the world, doing everything they can imagine. Getting your child out in the fresh air – playing cowboys and Indians or just colouring in, being outside is good for them and for you, while they are outside quietly playing you’re free to catch up with a book too, or do housework, or just enjoy some peace and quiet.
Time – Just the freedom to be a child, to be in their own outdoor space, doing whatever they want to do, away from school, out in the fresh air, just being a kid. Try and schedule in some blocks of *free time* where your child can go outside, on their own, with brothers and sisters or with friends and just enjoy letting their imaginations run free.