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water garden

Ways to Increase Outdoor Play

Getting cabin fever? Are you counting down the days until you can get outside and start gardening while your kids run wild in the backyard? Do you currently have a swing set? One common question we get with our clients is that they have an old swing set that their kids grew out of and don’t know how to get rid of it. We have taken apart and removed many swing sets in the past but what if you didn’t have one in the first place? What if you created natural, unstructured play areas that your kids can explore, have fun, and just be a kid. In turn, you will be helping them to become more creative and think outside the box. Here are some ideas on how to turn a few areas into kid zones.

Old tree Stumps –

What a great way to reuse a tree that had to come down in your yard. Tree stumps are a fabulous way to create elevated paths, obstacle courses, used as edges for a sandpit, or just to be used as a stool to sit on while having a tea party with your friends.

Hiding spaces –

Hide and seek never gets old when you are little. One of my daughter’s favorite hiding spots is in clothing racks at the store… She is a very creative little girl! Arbors, tunnels, or even a sunflower circle creates a magical space for them to hide. Weeping trees also have a wonderful playful habit for them to crawl under and lay out a blanket. Louis crabapple or Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry are great examples.

Water –

Water is a key element to many gardens. It could be a simple pond less bubbling water feature or a large koi pond that attracts many wildlife creatures. What a great way for children to learn is to have dragonflies, birds, butterflies, frogs, and more all in their backyard! Also try to use native plantings to help feed and give shelter to those birds, insects, etc. For example, if you want to attract Monarch Butterflies you need to provide plants for the butterflies complete life cycle. Milkweed is the caterpillar’s main food source but it’s also where they lay their eggs. A few plants they love are: Butterfly weed, Butterfly Bush, Pale Purple Coneflower, Joy Pye Weed, etc.)

Interesting Plants –

Have a variety of plants that play off the five senses. One of my favorite shrubs to design with is a Korean Spice Viburnum. I place them adjacent to front and back doors. It will be the first thing you smell as you walk outside. Another extremely fragrant plant are common Lilacs. In the spring this plant is full of beautiful purple blooms that fills the air! A few other plants that kids will love to touch are Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantine) for its soft leaves, or River Birch (Betula nigra) for its pealing unique bark, or A Servicerry (Amelanchier spp.) because of its delicious berries for birds and other animals.

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