I’m a huge fan of natural playscapes. Those fabricated by design professionals have vastly improved over the years (if you’re looking to design such a space, I’d highly recommend Natural Playscapes by Rusty Keeler….its both an informative and beautiful book!) Yet, the best natural playscapes, to me, remain those in wild places. Unmanicured. Not manipulated by “good design”. Places where kids don’t have to worry about adults scolding them for messing up the landscape. That is one quality I loved about our farmette in Montana. It simply didn’t matter if the kids wanted to dig a hole somewhere because our land was untamed and they could roam free.
You can imagine my ever so slight concern about moving back into a suburban neighborhood after several years among Montana’s ranch lands. How can space for uninhibited play be provided? The previous owners apparently spent three years landscaping the yard, adding a pond and terraced raised beds. Its beautiful. Obviously, the Sprouts can’t be allowed to hack away at the landscaping just for fun. And they are at the ages that learning to be responsible around plants is an important lesson. Our solution has been to transform an overgrown and uninteresting corner of the yard into a combination playscape and bunny yard (more on that in part 2). We cleaned out the weeds and overgrowth within a few days. There is room to dig. And, best of all, there are two trees that are fantastic for climbing! Every kid needs a climbing tree. And, since they are in the far corner of the property, it doesn’t really matter if the boys mess them up a bit. They’ve had fun climbing and clearing out the extra branches (I doubt its ever been pruned). I’ve had to hold my breath a few times when they’ve climbed higher than my mommy comfort zone. They were also thrilled to discover a dove’s nest in the tree with eggs! It was a great lesson in nature observation to say the least. All in all, I think our microscopic playscape is going to suit everyone just fine.