Friday, May 6, 2011

Natural Play Space.

The last couple weekends, my husband has been putting quite a bit of work into the kids play fort/play area. It is really coming together well. The structure was made almost entirely of re-claimed wood from replacing the wooden siding on our own house. The slide was given to us by a neighber who's children were grown.

The bottom section is now partially closed in. There is a service window on the front to encourage imaginative play. The kids have already turned it into a lemonade stand, market, coffee shop and taco bell. lol.

The south facing wall is a garden trellis we purchase several years ago with the intention of replacing the trellis on the side of our home. That never happened, and so we used it for the tree fort instead. Kenan created a very basic garden box, and the kids have already begun planting butterfly/caterpillar host plants and climbing flowers. Ideally, this trellis will be covered in climbing plants and flowers later in the summer.

Sage has been watering it daily waiting for the plants to emerge.

i asked Kenan to create me some of these tree cookies to use as a path through the wildflower garden. This will really look fabulous once more of the flowers begin to bloom.

About a week ago i stumbled upon The Arbor Day Nature Explore Source Book while looking for ideas to incorporate in our play area. They have some really cool things and ideas, although perhaps a bit overpriced. Our wood is not Red Cedar, but our play area has Log Steps, Crooked Balance beams, Tree cookies and natural building blocks. i found it rather amusing that the description of the items on the site says they are specially 'designed' to crack, break apart and decompose over time. lol. Yes, that is the beauty of natural is impermanent. It will slowly decompose and return to the earth. This is why we love it.

i made a tic-tack-toe board similar to this years ago. Such a simple and fun project. The kids can help find natural objects to use as the game pieces. i was orginially planning to use a wood burner to burn the design onto it, and then to burn a checker board on the other side. i'm not sure if it's because the wood was too fresh, but i could not get it to burn at all. So i made it with sticks and hot glue. The hot glue does not weather well, so we need to make sure and store it in the play fort when it's not being used. i recycled a mesh onion bag to hold all the game pieces (we used shells and acorns) when we are not playing with them. It can hang on a little nail inside the fort.

Kenan also cut a ton of natural wood blocks for the kids. They had a great time building fairy houses and structures and kingdoms and knocking them down again. Ours are really roughly cut (husband used a chain saw), we didn't sand them or seal them or anything. Sage was also using the smaller wood slices as pretend foods to sell at the service window. :) It is truly amazing to see their imaginations at work.

If your interested in making a set of the natural blocks there is a nice tutorial here on the Life on Willowdale blog. She includes a recipe for the beeswax polish, which i've always been curious about. i have been wanting to make natural wooden buttons to use on the clothing of my dolls, and am eager to try my hand at making them using a handsaw. i'll definitely post about my experience if i succeed. :)


  1. So much fun! I've made small natural building blocks from fallen branches, but I'm LOVING your gigantic building blocks and your tree cookies! I probably shouldn't wish for one of my trees to fall down just so that I can craft with it...

  2. What a great space! I want to come play too.

  3. how beautiful!!! I love these photos and all of the obvious hard work and reverence you put into creating suh a joyous space!!

  4. just popped by to say how much I love the natural elements you have included in your backyard. Lucky kids :)

  5. Lovely site, thank you. I really like the tic tack toe stump -great idea! maybe tack the tic tac toe twigs in place with horseshoe shaped nails, more permanent.

  6. Love your natual play idea. Just wonder where to get all these different sizes of tree logs?