Create a nature play space in your backyard

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Backyard play WebTips to create your own nature play space

  • Trust in nature. The best places for play have already been designed by nature, so take a close look at what already exists in your yard.
  • Include digging and building. The most engaging elements of a nature play spaces are sand and dirt to dig in as well as loose parts — piles of sticks and branches that kids can use to build and create.Incorporate secret places. A circle of grasses, a thicket of shrubs or a willow tree are all appealing spots for kids who love to hide.
  • Create a path that leads to something. Stepping stones can help guide children to a specific part of the yard.
  • Turn on the water. Water features, in the form of a fountain or creek bed, promise hours of entertainment. Don’t have the room? Set up a mud pie station near a spigot. It may be messy, but your kids will thank you for it.
  • Don’t forget a place to relax. “Kids will lay in a hammock for hours and just look up at the trees,” Dieguez says.

Natural play space resources

Visit the following organizations’ websites for additional tips to create your own nature play space or to learn more.

The National Wildlife Federation has tips on what to include in a nature play space.

Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood has a parents’ guide for incorporating more nature play.

Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature is dedicated to nature play and has lists of nature play spaces in Maryland.

7 nature play spaces in the Baltimore-Annapolis area. A list of parks and nature centers that have nature play spaces.

The Department of Natural Resources has a video on nature play spaces.

The Wild Child, Julie Dieguez's Annapolis design firm, specializes in nature play and outdoor classrooms.

Early Space is a Washington, D.C., area landscape design firm that specializes in natural play spaces.

By Katie Riley

Frog photo by Carolyn Kolstad
Bean teepee photo by Julie Dieguez
Bridge photo courtesy of Early Space

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