One aspect that I really wanted to include in our outdoor small world play area was blocks.
But blocks can be quite pricey and I didn’t want to invest in something that might be damaged in the weather, misplaced during playdates, or even stolen from our yard.
Using blocks made of natural materials satisfies my children’s need to create as well as my need to keep costs low.
Plus, I found an excellent idea online to tie our block area into our geography lessons.
One of the things the children loved most about last year’s backyard make-over was the balance scale we made for them to play with.
Our original balance scale was created using an old clothes hanger, a couple empty soda bottles, and some duct tape. And while it worked well enough, I thought it was time to upgrade to something a little more visually appealing and also a little more durable.
When I first set off to build an outdoor classroom in our backyard, I asked my son what he would like to see, what he would find most useful. Among a few other reasonable requests, LittleMan asked if we could build a catapult.
Last year we installed a large abacus between two trees using pool noodles and, while useful, it was a bit too far from the hot-spots in the yard. So this year we’ve installed a smaller abacus nearer to the mud kitchen area.
One of the main staples of most any classroom is the board.
A chalk board. A dry erase board. There always seems to be some sort of board.
Teachers diagram concepts for their pupils. Students practice their sight words and solve large math problems.
All at the board.
Watching wildlife in their own backyard is one of the most rewarding and inspiring activities that a child can do. I don’t even know the innumerable hours I spent as a child watching the squirrels gathering nuts for the winter and birds building their nests in the spring. Many seasons I sat in quiet observation of the raccoon kits as they outgrew their mother’s care and the flowers as they over-flowed their garden beds. I befriended the toad who made his burrow beneath my patio and awaited his awakening each evening as the day came to an end, frequently catching little fireflies to feed him.
Nothing makes me happier than knowing I can give my children a similar experience. Sending them outside everyday to connect with the world around them, in their own ways.
Many older houses come equipped with clotheslines in the backyard. Our home is one such place.
The large metal pole cemented into the ground in the middle of our outdoor classroom was an eye sore for me to look at every day.
So I sat down and brainstormed up a few ways that we could take that eye sore and make it useful.
Small world play is an excellent tool in the development of well-rounded children. They act out stories they’ve read (or had read to them), they act out social situations and practice handling emotions, they make up their own stories and exercise their creative muscle.
Having an outdoor small world play area just adds to the benefits. The sensory experience of real plants and dirt, the fresh air and sun on their skin. No doubt about it an outdoor small world play area, or “fairy garden,” is a childhood must-have.
I try to waterproof as much of our outdoor materials as possible. I’ve even found ways of making water-proof books and board games that can be left out in all sorts of weather without being damaged. But there are other things that I’d rather not get left out in the rain. Things like chalk. Magnetic letters. Dress-up Supplies.
Our quite the collection of Tonka cars. So much so that I decided to re-locate half of their collection to our outdoor classroom. Many of their Tonka cars are construction vehicles, which inspired me to create a construction play area for them.