Did you know that only 21% of modern kids get outside to play every day? The truth is that childhood playtime has decreased significantly as schoolwork and screen time have increased.
But all is not gloomy since research shows that playgrounds are becoming increasingly natural, and you can easily build one in your own backyard.
So, how do you build a natural playground? Start by identifying an ideal spot in your backyard and clear it. From there, you need to start adding natural play elements. Add sand, water, rocks, some plants, and toys. You should also consider having tall grass or some plants around the play area to serve as a hiding spot. Consider building a small pool for your kids if you have enough space.
This blog post discusses a step-by-step guide on how to build a natural playground in your backyard. Read on to find out everything you need to know.
What Is a Natural Playground?
Before we dive deep into discussing how you can build a natural playground, let’s first take a step back and understand what a natural playground even is.
Essentially, a natural playground is an outdoor play area that uses nature as its source of inspiration and materials. This type of playground will often include features such as sand, water, rocks, logs, and other elements found in nature.
The benefits of natural playgrounds are numerous. Not only do they encourage kids to get outside and play, but they also promote physical activity, imagination, creativity, and a sense of exploration.
Why Natural Play?
Natural playgrounds use a wide range of environmental features such as grassy hills and down log to encourage kids to move.
While it may not feel like intense exercise, careful balancing on log rails and climbing over the sandhills can be a good workout. Multi-sensory physical play will most likely leave your children worn out and ready for a sound sleep at night.
Free, unstructured play is an incredible opportunity to let your children run wild, and children usually have a lot of these ideas.
Creative play provides your little ones with an excellent opportunity to learn about themselves and their world.
When kids engage in creative play, they develop essential life skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and resilience.
Natural playgrounds have been shown to positively impact children’s mental health. One study found that time spent in natural environments can lead to decreased levels of stress hormones and increased serotonin levels.
So, now that we know all the benefits of natural playgrounds, let’s look at how you can build one in your backyard.
How to Build a Natural Playground
Building a natural playground is easier than you might think. With a bit of time and effort, you can easily transform your backyard into an outdoor paradise that your kids will love. Here are the steps you need to take:
1. Choose a Location
The first step is to choose a location for your playground. If you have a large backyard, then you’re lucky. But, even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can still make it work. Keep in mind that you’ll need enough room for all the features you want to include.
A perfect spot would be an area that gets plenty of sun and is away from any hazards such as trees, bushes, or fences.
2. Clear the Area
Once you’ve chosen a location, it’s time to clear the area. This step is crucial because you want to make sure there are no obstacles in the way that could trip your kids or damage your equipment.
If there are any large rocks or roots in the way, you can either remove them or use them as part of your playground.
Now that the area is clear, you’re ready to start adding your playground features.
3. Add Sand
One of the most popular elements in natural playgrounds is sand. Kids love playing in the sand, and it’s a great way to encourage creative play. If you’re going to include sand in your playground, you’ll need to find a place to buy it. You can usually find sand at your local hardware store or online.
Once you have your sand, you’ll need to find a way to keep it contained. One option is to build a sandbox. This will give your kids a place to play without making a mess.
If you don’t want to build a sandbox, you can just spread the sand in a large area. Just ensure you keep it away from any grassy areas, so it doesn’t get too messy.
4. Install Balance Beams
Research has shown that balance beams are great for developing gross motor skills. They’re also a lot of fun for kids to play on.
Additionally, they make kids learn how to sit and be aware of their bodies in space. A combination of these skills plays a critical role in the development of a child.
You can buy balance beams online or at your local hardware store. Be sure to get ones that are the right size for your kids. You don’t want them to be too small or too large.
5. Add Some Water
Another popular element in natural playgrounds is water. Kids love playing in water, and it’s a great way to encourage physical activity.
Once you have a steady supply of water, you’ll need to find a way to keep it contained. One option is to build a kiddie pool. This will give your kids a place to play without making a mess.
If you don’t want to build a kiddie pool, you can simply fill up a large container with water and invite your kids over for play.
6. Natural Hiding Spots
Plant some tall grass or native plants around the perimeter of your playground. This will create some natural hiding spots for your kids to play in. Tallgrass is also a great way to add some privacy to your playground.
However, you need to ensure that the surrounding plants are not so dense that you can’t see what your little ones are up to. This is for safety reasons, of course.
7. Add Some Plants
Plants are a great way to add color and interest to your playground. They can also provide your kids with some much-needed shade on hot days.
When choosing plants for your playground, make sure you select ones that are non-toxic and safe for kids. You can usually find safe plants at your local nursery or online.
One of the best ways to organize the plants in the natural playground is by building a planter. This will give your plants a place to grow without taking over your entire backyard.
If you don’t want to build a planter, you can simply position them at strategic points on your natural playground.
8. Add Some Toys
No playground is complete without some toys. You can either buy toys specifically for your playground or repurpose some of your kids’ existing toys. Just make sure the toys you choose are safe for kids and appropriate for the age group you’re catering to.
Popular playground toys include swings, slides, climbing structures, and sandboxes. You can usually find these items at your local hardware store or online.
To keep your toys organized, build a storage shed. This will give your kids a place to store their toys when they’re not using them.
If you don’t want to build a storage shed, keep the toys in a large bag or bin. Just make sure you keep them away from play areas since they can become tripping hazards.
9. Furnish Your Playground
Now that you’ve added all the elements, it’s time to furnish your playground. You’ll need to add some seating, shade, and storage.
Seating can be anything from benches to logs. If you’re using logs, make sure they’re sturdy and not too big for your kids. Shade can be provided by trees, awnings, or umbrellas. Storage can be anything from bins to sheds.
Once you’ve added all the furnishings, your playground is complete and ready for use!
How Big Does a Natural Playground Need to Be?
Your natural playground can take up a small part of your backyard or the entire thing. It all depends on how much space you have and what you want to include.
If you’re tight on space, you can still create a beautiful natural playground by adding some potted plants, a small sandbox, and some toys. If you have a larger backyard, you might want to include a kiddie pool, a climbing structure, and a swing set.
No matter what size your playground is, make sure it’s safe for kids and that you have a way to contain any water or sand.
A natural playground can be a great addition to any park or backyard, and is a fun way for kids to get exercise and explore their natural surroundings.
If you’re looking to build your own, follow these steps to create a safe and enjoyable space for children of all ages to play.
Remember, the key is keeping it simple! Start with a few basic elements and add on as you go.