Swings (you need one!)

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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.

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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

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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. 😉

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The ‘Thoughtbarn’ Playhive you’re going to NEED!

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Many many years ago before we had kids, I discovered Thoughtbarn’s amazing ‘Playhive’. It was love at first sight and I always dreamed of building it at one of the schools I worked at. Fast forward to life as a mama at home with a toddler and I decided that now was the time to make that dream a reality for us. Enter my lovely husband who makes all my crazy dreams and aspirations come true, a few months of tacking away at it (because every single piece needed to be cut and sanded by hand) and finally we had our very own Hive. And the best part – you can build your own too, because Thoughtbarn is insanely rad and shares the plans for FREE! Download them HERE.

Update – over the years we decided to pimp out our Hive a little, by adding a slide and also most recently a play telescope. This created new invitations to play and has revigorized how our boys and their friends use it.

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Sandbox/Mud Kitchen feeling neglected? Just add shade and water!

Our little mud kitchen and sandbox area wasn’t getting much love recently, so I decided to spice things up to entice little friends back in. Step 1) adding some permanent shade over the sandbox with a $25 shade sail from Amazon. Step 2) water! The kids play area is as far from a spigot as possible, so I found a secondhand rain barrel for the area. After a good clean, we popped it on a little table so the faucet was easily accessible, and filled it up with the hose. Voila! And instant water source for my boys! It was a MASSIVE hit and they played outside all morning engineering waterways and making stew concoctions. ☼

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A Little Free Library Space Just For Kids | June 2019

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When we bought our house six years ago, the backyard was a jungle of weeds, dead trees, and a dilapidated chainlink fence. Over the years we have transformed it, including very early on erecting a six-foot wood fence (because as much as I love my neighbors, I need privacy and to feel like I have my own oasis). We live on a corner and our home backs an alleyway, and so permitting wise we had to caddy corner the back corner of the fence. This left a little triangular section of garden outside our perimeter that needed something other than dirt and weeds.

Rewind again, and six years ago my dearest friend’s baby passed away during childbirth. As a way of honoring her son, she asked friends to give books away in his name. This led to her sister establishing library shelves of children’s books in places of great need, under the name ‘Charlie’s Books’. I decided I wanted to honor Charlie in the same way, so we created our own Little Free Library just for kids in this space.

Over the years the plants have changed and grown, and this year we decided to create bean teepee over the reading bench, but it’s always been space where the neighborhood kids and folks passing by on their way to soccer or the playground, can stop and read, take a book, or leave some to share. And although this may not be a typical play space, I wanted to share because it’s something you could build for your front yard too as a way to create a space for all the children in your neighborhood.

Beverly + Sydney’s Mud Kitchen | October 2018

When your bestie’s small human has a birthday, you obviously need to go a little over the top. Beverly and Sydney live in a row house in DC with no backyard and a little front yard. Their mama really wanted them to have a place where they could play outside, so we dreamed up a little mud kitchen area for their tiny square of grass in the front. First step was removing/moving their two currently unused raised beds. One half was beginning to rot, so that came out. And then we scooted the other bed closer to the road to make a tiny spot to play.

Back home my beautiful beloved front yard bench had finally given up on life and fallen completely apart. I hated to throw it away and had held onto it more some kind of up-cycling, and then *voila* realized it would make the perfect mud kitchen, and we could make it look gorgeous and not in anyway an eyesore from the road.

BEFORE

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My lovely husband who does all the building and installing for this little venture, removed the old broken seat, replaced it with a new wood top using scraps, tightened everything up, added a shelf, and gave it a nice sand down. All with an adorable helper or two at times. 😉

The finished product came out better than I could have imagined and is a huge hit with the girls (and my kids). We furnished it out with a fun variety of pots and pants and other kitchen bits and pieces, plus lots of natural materials we had been gathering for them (rocks, acorns, sticks, feathers, other seeds etc). There are hooks to hand things (rope included), a place to park their dump trucks, and we up cycled some old slate paver pieces we found in our yard to help really designate the space. The mud kitchen also happily right near the spigot, so Beverly and Sydney can add water to their play when needed.

AFTER

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