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Flashback Friday : Setting Up the Yard For Nature Play

April 15, 2011

::Originally Posted April 25, 2010 – it seemed pertinent again this time of year and I have some other projects up my sleeve this week, so I have been a bit quiet::

As we’re planning and starting our garden(s?) in the backyard, I’ve had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do some special stuff for the kids. I just wasn’t sure what exactly. We got some great seed mixes of Hummingbird flowers, Butterfly-attracting flowers and I’ve been doing research on plants to attract butterflies as well as research on bird feeders and to attract more wildlife to your backyard try adding one of these cool bird houses for birds to nest in. That’s about the sum of what I’ve done, though.

While I’ve been pondering ideas, I was recently so pleasantly surprised to open a post by Meg at Sew Liberated all about nature and how to make things conducive to kids exploring and enjoying their outside environments. Along with some books that sound fantastic, she specifically linked to these to resources with tons of incredible ideas of things to do for/with little ones:

I know that there are a million and one resources out there, but I have a tendency to just overwhelm myself with obsessing and finding so many resources that I never even finish one and don’t get to the actual projects, just spend all of my time planning the projects. So when I opened these and started reading and saw that they were just the key I had been needing, I stuck with them and they’ve been an incredible inspiration for just a few things we’ll add to the yard specifically for the kids. Here are the things we’ve chosen that we can do without spending a ton of money and in a limited amount of time to build things:

  1. A Sunflower House – This is the one that I’m most excited about. We planned to plant sunflowers anyway, so this is going to be a perfect project that I know the kids will adore. I can’t wait to watch it grow with them this summer! I don’t know about where you live, but locally the saying is, “Knee high by the 4th of July” and since I’m going to include corn in the mix that we plant, I think they’ll be able to get a good amount of time to play in it through the summer. Both kids are still not a ton more than knee-high, so I can only imagine how incredible it will seem when the sunflowers start stretching for the sky and towering above them! We have 4 different kinds of sunflowers that will be planted, plus corn, some chamomile and a few smaller flowers.
  2. A Digging Hole – This was the compromise because I didn’t think my neighbors would love if we just put in a big dirt pile. (Plus, dirt isn’t cheap, as we’re learning from prepping to fill the raised beds). I’m still a bit hesitant on this one, but what makes me want to do it SO much is thinking of how much I know I would have loved this as a kid! That and this post at Mama May I that makes me want to bake mud cookies rightthisveryminute. We already took away the sand box that was supposed to go under the swing set because they always get damp and full of bugs(my mom was always obsessed with them being full of fleas? What is that about??), so this will be a good spot for them to have some shovels and tools and transportation vehicles and go to town. In the back of my mind, I like the idea of filling this with mulch or gravel, but I think the kids are still kid of small, so that might be a better idea in a year or two when Nick won’t eat it by the handful.
  3. Logs/Obstacle Course – I love this idea! They’ll be embedded in the ground a bit so that they can’t roll and will give an instant balance beam/seat/obstacle course/road for vehicles/house for fairies and so many other fun things!
  4. A Butterfly Garden – I initially thought we’d do this as part of the raised beds, but I think we might do this in a completely different location now. Just in it’s own little section on the side of the yard near the swing set in the area that they currently gravitate so that they’ll get to enjoy it more. I’ve seen quite a few mixes of flowers that are intended to attract butterflies(based on the butterflies in our area), so we’ll start with those and also add milkweed, dill, marigolds, rosemary and lavender.
  5. Bird HousesWe already have one and hadn’t done more than that because of the squirrels eating everything we put in it last year. I’m going to get in gear with researching bird foods that won’t appeal as much to squirrels(funny, right?) and get a good bunch out there so that we can do more bird watching.
  6. Blueberries to Pick – The plants are here and ready to go in, so we’ll see how they actually do. If you do this, a big tip we’ve heard repeatedly is to make sure that you get more than one plant and make sure you have at least two different varieties for cross-pollination.
  7. A Kiddie Pool and Sprinklers – I think this one is a bit more taken for granted/assumed, but I wanted to include it on the list because it’s such a huge part of summertime. Water play is and I’m kind of convinced that it’s therapeutic. (It’s a big part of why we need a bathroom with a bathtub in this house. Yes, you heard that right – two little kids and not a bathtub to be found in our house. To answer your next question: they shower with us most of the time and sometimes we throw them in the sink. It works.) But, mama loves a bath something fierce and I *dream* of the day I have a tub again, so I’m really looking forward to getting out the kiddie pool and dipping my feet in while the kids run around splashing like wild little hooligans.

I can’t lie, a lot of this sounds like a TON of fun to me. It feels so good deep down in my soul to think of my garden and dirt digging and spending sunny summer days playing outside with the kids and squishing mud in my toes and  listening to squeals of delight that accompany, “Higher, Mama, HIGHER” while I push them on the swings. Oh, I can just smell the grill right now…

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