Create an impromptu obstacle course (outside and in!)

702b5cab-7448-489f-afe2-83aec9ab1991

It may be #Friyay but I’m already counting down the days til next Wednesday and our weekly #humpdayhangout (aka playgroup). We spend the majority of the time outside and the littles always flock to the sandbox and mud kitchen, however right now my play area is in flux and dismantled so we had to get extra creative this week to keep bodies and minds busy. Cue – the impromptu obstacle course!


Using wooden boards of different lengths, ladders, cones, a saw horse and blanket, cushions, a soccer goal, and a tight rope, + bubbles to celebrate reaching the end, we created a play invitation that everyone wanted to try (over and over again). This is something so simple and opened-ended you could set up at home too (inside and out). Get creative and let me know what you come up with, or even better, send pics!

Swings (you need one!)

Processed with VSCO with acg preset

Planning an outdoor play space for your favorite tiny human! Make sure to add a swing (or even better, two). On top of the gross and fine motor benefits of swinging, it’s a really lovely social activity for friends of any age. Little ones will feed off each other’s giggles and glee, and older kids will open up and really chat! It’s also a naturally calming activity and amazing for sensory integration, so it’s no wonder swinging just makes you feel good!
Looking for the perfect place to hang a swing but lacking that magical perfectly placed tree branch? We had the same issue. The solution for us was to build a simple arbor to hang them from. To add some greenery we grew banksia roses up and over it – a really lovely fast growing thornless climbing rose. The arbor now also acts as the unofficial (and I think very beautiful) gateway to our boys’ main outdoor play area.

Clay | A fun first introduction (warning – its’ messy ;)

48a885b8-b8ea-4985-a1ca-5efe5df5d1c1Wednesday’s are for #humpdayhangouts – a weekly play date I host with friends and their little ones. This morning’s session was taken up a notch with an unexpected acquisition of a lovely chunk of clay. I know your instinct might be to give each child their own little piece to work with, in the same way you would play dough, but I find that young children need a chance to fully explore the clay as a whole before they are ready or willing to create individually.

cebb105d-f836-453d-8aaa-0b4da1f40d1f
For today’s play invitation I laid out a large plastic drop cloth and put the whole piece of clay in the center of it. Around the clay I placed various tools and materials – kitchen utensils, tongs, rocks, seed pods, little branches with leaves, a large log, yard flamingoes, and a bowl of warm water with little sponges. The children watched as I set it up and naturally were interested in taking a closer look. They took their cues from each other as they played and explored, learning about how the texture changes with the addition of water, or the ways the flamingoes beaks made such a lovely little finger sized hole.

fdf75f3d-8a92-4265-aaac-15965e140e37The first part of the play was really just getting familiar with the materials, then play arcs started to take shape. More tools were gathered from the sandbox area. The clay started to be shaped into things. Games started evolving. All of this with very minimal adult direction or interaction. Just beautiful independent social play with friends. #myheartishappy

fae76732-71c2-4fd8-aaae-8b112ed77ebc

Loose parts in the sandbox | #unexpectedtoys

It was out with the mud pies and stews today, and in with ravine digging, ramp building, and car racing. Today’s #unexpectedtoys were wood offcuts and old bricks. I took cues from my oldest’s spontaneous play (ravine digging) and brought over some loose parts I thought might extend his play arc. They were met with enthusiasm, and with a little trial and error and lots of big ideas, my boys worked together to build a ‘car racing water slide’ that kept them busy alllllll morning! #winwin

⋒ Don’t have a sandbox? No worries. Loose parts like scrap wood and bricks make for great play anywhere outside (and they’re free!). Build fairy houses for small world play, obstacle courses for gross motor play, faux fire pits for dramatic play. Your child’s imagination has no limit!

Bubbles (all the magic without the work)

“In a moment of pure frustration today, I came to the conclusion that there is no angry way to say bubbles.” – Anon.
Bubbles are magical! They can turn around any crappy day with their happy floaty dreaminess (have you ever frozen bubbles in the winter – literally the best). But (and it’s a big 🍑) I hate everything about blowing bubbles. So thanks to some slick Amazon marketing 🙈) I bought an industrial bubble machine. Game changer. I literally fill it up, turn it on, and let the magic happen (for like a solid hour) without any of the usual huffing, puffing, or stickiness. Just throwing it out there, as a #playspacepsa.

Mud Kitchen Treasures (thanks, autumn)

Autumn is wonderful for so many reasons – cute vintage knits, no mosquitoes, zero reason to shave, and plentiful nature treasures for your mud kitchen*! We have an old metal oven as the heart of our mud kitchen, and my kids love it when they find a play invitation laid out with new natural goodies. All these lovelies were picked up on our walk/bike ride this morning. Zero effort (minus bulging pockets). Zero cost. Huge inspiration and magic. Note the look on my oldest’s face when I told him he could have at it post picture taking. #priceless🍁🍃

*Don’t have a mud kitchen? No worries! Bring these babies inside and see how they transform your child’s dramatic/small world/block/art play (all the play!). So next time you’re walking, bring a basket or big pockets. 😉

3bfc14a3-05dd-460b-ae8f-9779e97b14cc

Play spaces are not stagnant spaces!

Processed with VSCO with q5 preset
BEFORE the play space ‘shelf shuffle’
Processed with VSCO with q5 preset
AFTER the play space ‘shelf shuffle’

You’ve worked your peach off and your tiny human’s play space is Insta worthy and beautifully organized. Bravo! Sit back and reap the rewards of watching your child play, engage, and not need you for awhile. 😉 But here’s the thing – remember that this space is not stagnant, and as your child grows and their interests change, so should their play space. You’ll probably know when it’s time too. Their interest in the space will wane, their need for you during play will grow, and you hear the dreaded “I’m bored” more and more.

  • You don’t have to go all out and replace and move around furniture (although it is true when they say change is as good as a holiday – haha), but you do need to be changing out toys, rearranging toy/materials layout to encourage and revitalize interest, and setting up new play invitations.
  • This can happen nightly when you do your space refresh (especially creating new play invitations – think setting up a train track for your child to find when they wake up).
  • Weekly – think the next time your child pulls everything off the shelves, instead of putting it back where it was, switch things up so new items are at their eye level.
  • Or monthly – pull and store some old toys, and bring out ones you had put away. And just like that, your play space stays fresh and full of life! 🙂