Although we have 5 acres of natural space, Derek and I do not have any manicured lawn surrounding our home. I sometimes wonder whether we should create a grassy area for Cymone and her friends to romp around. Instead, we have added little touches throughout our garden spaces that encourage imaginative play. We have incorporated some of these ideas on the following Top Ten list, while other ideas are now on my list of to-dos:
1. Children love to hide and huddle together in small, secret places. Teepees are a wonderful way to grow plants while giving children a quiet, secretive space of their own. Weave together bamboo, long sticks or old wooden ladders to grow pole beans, flowering vines or hops.
2. Find a small area off the path, perhaps beneath a tree or in a shady corner where plants are struggling to grow, and create your own version of outdoor Tic Tac Toe.
3. You can never go wrong with a mosaic in your garden. If you feel inspired to create one, turn it into a game of hop scotch for children to play. This can also be done with simple stepping stones.
4. A labyrinth is a fun way to visually break up large spaces and it gives children a maze to wander through. It will provide hours of tag and problems solving games. You don't have to make anything complicated. You can just collect rocks or use recycled bricks to create a playful maze.
5. Leap frog? Lily pad jumping? A simple stump path is not only pleasing to the eye, but it gives children another option for play.
6. Add colorful figurines, rocks and sticks to your garden. Children love to trapse through garden beds admiring the little details. These painted garden markers are a fun way to merge art with function.
7. No children's garden is complete without at least one fairy house. The day before each full moon, Cymone ventures outside to build another home for her little friends, hoping they will visit while she's sleeping and leave her with a treasure.
8. Another important element to have in a children's garden is water play. You don't have to purchase a box or stand. Just set up a bucket and watering can next to your spigot and let your child's imagination do the work.
9. Horseshoes are a terrific backyard game for both children and adults. Set up a course some distance from a fire pit for hours of summer evening entertainment.
10. This one is my favorite. As children, my mother would have us plant lollipop sticks in the ground. The next morning, we'd wake up to find that a lollipop tree had grown in its place. You don't have to fill your children with sugar to create this magical effect. Instead, decorate your tree with all sorts of colorful artifacts that will undoubtedly result in "ohs" and "ahs"!
If you have any great ideas to share, please leave a comment!