There’s no denying that I’m obsessed with our backyard. When we started looking for our dream home, we were actually looking for our dream backyard! We knew we wanted our children to spend lots of time outside in the fresh air so when we found a lovely little suburban home with a big backyard, we knew we were onto a winner! Our minds starting working in overdrive coming up with ideas for making the best backyard!
This week I’d like to share a few of our favourite outdoor play space essentials to help you with your backyard planning project! I’ve compiled a list based on the spaces and kinds of play our three young children enjoy the most so I hope these ideas inspire you too!
And because I know I’ll get asked – our climber was from Educational Experience before they shut down. If you google ‘up and over climber’ you will find something similar! Our little fences are from Educating Kids and our cubby was from Kmart!
This might not come as a surprise, but my top must-have item for your outdoor play space is definitely a mud kitchen! Kurtis designed the most incredible big mud kitchen for our three children to use together, but you certainly don’t need something as fancy as ours. But just in case you do, here’s a blog post with all the finer details!
Before we invested time and energy into creating a big mud kitchen, we actually started with a few bricks, a plank of wood and a few bowls and old kitchen supplies. This little mud kitchen was so very loved by our toddler that we decided to grab an old secondhand sink to make something a little bigger that Lilly and her little brother could enjoy together. The goal here is to provide our little people with a space where they an mix up all kinds of potions with herbs, flowers and dirt from the garden.
Somewhere to get Messy!
Of course sensory play is high up on my list of outdoor play space must haves! The backyard is already so rich with sensory play opportunities without us needing to prepare anything specifically. In fact, our kids find immense pleasure from a muddy corner in the yard. Audrey loves digging around and making mud pies direct from the garden bed!
Other times when it rains, the whole yard becomes a mud pit and Elliot LOVES getting right in there and getting muddy. This is fairly extreme though hahah. Sometimes he’ll grab his hotweels and trucks and other times he just jumps right on in and gets completely muddy. This one is gonna depend on your own tolerance for mess, though I do believe this kind of play is incredibly beneficial!
Imaginative Play Spaces
Imaginative play is such a big part of our children’s play and the mud kitchen is definitely integral in this. But we also look for other ways we can support imaginative play in the backyard too. We have a little cubby (which was from Kmart – read about our hack here) which lives on our little deck under the trees and beside our mud kitchen. Not so long alone, Lilly turned it into a jail by writing a sign on the door!
Quite often though, the best imaginative play comes from things that don’t usually live in the yard. During lockdown, we cut down a big palm tree and then used the fronds to make a cubby for the kids. They LOVED playing in there and it didn’t cost us a cent. So look for opportunities in your own yard – can you make a fort with blankets and pillows from inside?
We’ve also got some DIY road blocks that we made many years ago which live outside in the garden now. Elliot loves using them with his monster trucks and cars. I love that they’re fairly open ended so he can use them to create all kinds of tracks. I’d actually love to make some more longer pieces or add some large pipes and tunnels for him to move around and use too!
Gross Motor Toys
Our kids need space to move – to get those wriggles out! Having space where your children can run, jump, hop and spin is so incredibly important. Sometimes this can be tricky if you don’t have a big yard but any amount of green grass is going to be helpful!
We have a bunch of Gross Motor equipment from Hart Sports which the kids use to make obstacle courses ALL THE TIME. We used these almost everyday during lockdown when we were trying to juggle home learning with a busy 6 year old!
As you can see – there are so many ways to support and facilitate play in your backyard! There are endless toys and materials available but I hope this blog helps you to see some of the simple ways you can ignite your child’s imagination and gross motor skills in your outdoor play space!