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natural playgrounds

 
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Have a 1.5 yr old and was debating on best way to turn some fallen trees from the property into different structures. Does anyone have any experience doing that?
 
Rocket Scientist
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For a toddler, I think what you want is not "structures" but stacked or leaning logs arranged to be stable and give climbing/crawling/hiding opportunities without the possibility of falling more than a foot or two. Also without small gaps that could trap a foot or arm.

Depending on the size and age since falling and species, you might later make more adventurous structures of these logs. Oak or cherry or locust could last long enough to reasonably build "treehouses" or other kinds of structures. Softwoods may not be durable enough to safely do that in five years.

Several years ago when my then youngest grandkids were around seven and five, I built with their help a little "log cabin" style fort. Something that can use small (4-8") logs, even old pine or fir, can give a fine sense of enclosure and space for children to make stories in and around.
 
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Have you seen Nicole's evolving playground here?
 
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What a great timing! I was just thinking about digging up Nicole’s playground thread, as I’m planning building simple playground for my almost 2 years old toddler.

My current plan has different heights of logs to climb on and some kind of balance beam made out of a longer log cut in half. I’m also thinking about making a sand pit using the logs as the sides.. Oh and a raised bed for her to grow her own stuff in!
 
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Welcome to the forum!

The pictures from Nicole's thread that Joylynn posted the link for are just adorable.

I especially liked the stumps for sitting and climbing.

Nicole said, "As it is, my kids had a BLAST. My son would jump from big log to big log and then to the ground, hopping like a from from "lilly pad" to "lily pad."



And that Hugel Spiral for munchies:

Nicole said, "Of course, all this jumping and agility made them hungry, but their "diner" is just a few feet away! They love munching on sage, chives, and dandelions from my [url=Of course, all this jumping and agility made them hungry, but their "diner" is just a few feet away! They love munching on sage, chives, and dandelions from my



https://permies.com/t/44289/Herbal-Hugel-Spiral-Randomness

Best wishes for a lovely natural playground.
 
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Growing up, we had a natural playground. It was everything and anything outside of the house (including the outside of the house itself.. like climbing the exterior of our brick chimney to get on the roof!)

My mom loves to tell a funny story from my early life. My older brother and I were playing outside, and she heard me calling her.. “Mommy! Mommy!” She went out to investigate, and found me near the top of a pine tree.. to the point where it was beginning to bend under my weight, but I was laughing and waving. She panicked, but realized to play it calm, and told me sternly to climb down.. which I did. I was about three years old at the time.

I love the idea of a created play area from logs and such. You could deeply bed it in wood chips for the inevitable falls. Carve stumps into whimsical creatures, and make hand painted signs with positive messages.
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My theory is that it is best if children test gravity and learn to respect it while they're still small enough/young enough to bounce/bend rather than break, rather than deciding to test gravity at age 16 in your car.

So build away, let them climb, let them take chances that might "hurt" but not result in death, and pay attention to what they will land on - lots of soft tree duff - yes! Sand - yes! Sharp, pointy rocks - no!
 
Ted Abbey
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Jay Angler wrote:My theory is that it is best if children test gravity and learn to respect it while they're still small enough/young enough to bounce/bend rather than break, rather than deciding to test gravity at age 16 in your car.

So build away, let them climb, let them take chances that might "hurt" but not result in death, and pay attention to what they will land on - lots of soft tree duff - yes! Sand - yes! Sharp, pointy rocks - no!



I agree Jay. I don’t believe children should be bubble wrapped with helmets in padded play areas. Real life is dangerous, and I think that play areas that reflect that reality will teach them better to survive in the long term. Looking back, I realize that some of the play equipment I grew up with was downright treacherous. (Remember lawn darts?!? Haha.) One in particular that stands out in my memory was a “fire engine” fashioned from black pipe and plumbing fixtures. I was sitting on the crossbar of the “dashboard”, and teasing my older brother about something, and he pushed me back. The back of my head connected with the spine of the “hood” and split. Lots of blood, and a few stitches.. but I survived! Playgrounds and natural selection?... hmmm
 
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Saana Jalimauchi wrote:What a great timing! I was just thinking about digging up Nicole’s playground thread, as I’m planning building simple playground for my almost 2 years old toddler.

My current plan has different heights of logs to climb on and some kind of balance beam made out of a longer log cut in half. I’m also thinking about making a sand pit using the logs as the sides.. Oh and a raised bed for her to grow her own stuff in!



If you make a longer log and cut it in half, you could turn the other side into a teeter-totter! For a while, my husband took the top off of the wooden bench we'd made, and used it as a teeter-totter. He used some metal for this, but I think someone could basically make a "three log bench," but only make 1 bottom log, rather than three. Use that log as the fulcrum, and you'll be good to go!

 
Nicole Alderman
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Ted Abbey wrote:

Jay Angler wrote:My theory is that it is best if children test gravity and learn to respect it while they're still small enough/young enough to bounce/bend rather than break, rather than deciding to test gravity at age 16 in your car.

So build away, let them climb, let them take chances that might "hurt" but not result in death, and pay attention to what they will land on - lots of soft tree duff - yes! Sand - yes! Sharp, pointy rocks - no!



I agree Jay. I don’t believe children should be bubble wrapped with helmets in padded play areas. Real life is dangerous, and I think that play areas that reflect that reality will teach them better to survive in the long term.



Back when I was doing my training for being a preschool teacher, they actually told us that it's important for a child's development to take safe risks. If we shelter them too much, their brains don't develop quite right, and they often act out in other ways. Like Jay said, let them take risks, but relatively safe risks that won't end up with them dead or seriously injured.

One important "rule of thumb" is that they shouldn't be jumping/falling from more than 1.5x their height. So, if a kid is 3 feet tall, they shouldn't be jumping or able to fall of something that's more than 4.5 feet tall.  I usually told my kids that they shouldn't jump from something higher than they were, but apparently my notes actually said 1.5x their height. Honestly, though, telling the kids "Don't jump from something higher than you," will probably result in them jumping from things 1.5x their height, because most will push (or miss-judge) the boundary!
 
Saana Jalimauchi
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Ted Abbey wrote:You could deeply bed it in wood chips for the inevitable falls. Carve stumps into whimsical creatures, and make hand painted signs with positive messages.



Great ideas, thank you! Woodchips as the "floor" of the area was the plan.. If anyone has any thoughts on this I would appreciate them. They'd have to be fresh, might there be other things to consider?

Nicole Alderman wrote:If you make a longer log and cut it in half, you could turn the other side into a teeter-totter!



And this! Brilliant!
 
Jay Angler
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Kids adore swings - it is a brain development thing. However the typical commercial swing sets don't grow with your children and adults can't play along. So if you've got lots of decent logs, I'd think of a way to build a proper swing.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Saana Jalimauchi wrote:

Nicole Alderman wrote:If you make a longer log and cut it in half, you could turn the other side into a teeter-totter!



And this! Brilliant!



Well, this thread inspired me to get out there, dig out the other half of the log from our three-log bench, and turn it into a teeter totter!

We'd made that bench 4 years ago, so the other half of the log was a bit worse for wear. There was a little rot on the bark side of it.

My kids and I moved that sodden log all by ourselves, using small firewood rounds to roll the teeter-totter log on.

We had to move it over 100 feet, up and down hills, but we did it! A little carving with a hatchet into a different log, resulted in a fun teeter-totter!

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My 6 year old daughter pushed it by herself!
My 6 year old daughter pushed it by herself!
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And here's my 9-year old pushing it by himself!
And here's my 9-year old pushing it by himself!
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I found a cherry log that was too knotty to split for firewood, and started carving a notch in the middle
I found a cherry log that was too knotty to split for firewood, and started carving a notch in the middle
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They loved being able to walk back and forth on it to change who was up and who was down based on leverage.
They loved being able to walk back and forth on it to change who was up and who was down based on leverage.
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Here's how I carved the fulcrum. It'd last longer if I'd peeled all the bark off, but this was such a small log that I didn't want to make it smaller!
Here's how I carved the fulcrum. It'd last longer if I'd peeled all the bark off, but this was such a small log that I didn't want to make it smaller!
 
Jay Angler
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

They loved being able to walk back and forth on it to change who was up and who was down based on leverage.

I *really* like that you made it long enough and low enough that this could be done. I hated teetertotters as a child because I was so light weight and didn't understand the physics of them, that I simply found I couldn't use them with anyone. The ones I remember were high enough off the ground that even trying to use them was a frustrating, jarring, accident waiting to happen.

Granted, I truly was an outlier in the weight department! But your children, Nicole, are far enough apart in age, that to actually have fun with it, they probably need the flexibility you've engineered into it.
 
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Ted Abbey wrote:
Looking back, I realize that some of the play equipment I grew up with was downright treacherous. (Remember lawn darts?!? Haha.) One in particular that stands out in my memory was a “fire engine” fashioned from black pipe and plumbing fixtures.



We played on a fire truck too when we were kids. A real one. My grandfather was a fire chief and he was storing an old pumper in his back yard for the city.

My favorite playthings when I was a kid were real things, not toys. Doing flips on a metal railing. Climbing trees. Using the sewing machine. The measuring cups, toddler bowl, and turkey baster got almost as many baths as I did. As a toddler, my grandfather made me a "balance beam" out of a 2x4 that was all of 2 inches off the ground because I used the curb and he didn't want me hit by a car. When the novelty of that wore off a few years later, I spent hours pounding nails into the same 2x4 with his hammer in the driveway. By the time I was a teenager my father learned if he needed needlenose pliers I had them in my jewelry making stuff.

My point? Consider letting them have a go at something they see you doing all the time.
 
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I’m in rural northern France and my kids (6 and 9) ordered me not to cut up a felled tree as it would make a good ‘parcours’ ( basically, à obstacle course). We have added horizontal logs, rounds planted vertically as steps and an old metal pipe as a very thin walkway. Next: a moveable teeter-totter to step onto, handholds cut up one side of a 20 foot tree trunk ( it has been topped already as it threatened our stone house) and climbing wall holds screwed into the other side of that trunk.
Lots of woodchips but if you can get softwood/conifers, I would recommend it; these ones are composting before my eyes. If you are going to make it semipermanent, it might even make sense to put landscaping fabric down before the chips, to keep them out of contact with the soil.
I think we all agree; kids need to explore, take reasonable risks, and get outdoors!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Dave Way wrote:I’m in rural northern France and my kids (6 and 9) ordered me not to cut up a felled tree as it would make a good ‘parcours’ ( basically, à obstacle course). We have added horizontal logs, rounds planted vertically as steps and an old metal pipe as a very thin walkway. Next: a moveable teeter-totter to step onto, handholds cut up one side of a 20 foot tree trunk ( it has been topped already as it threatened our stone house) and climbing wall holds screwed into the other side of that trunk.
Lots of woodchips but if you can get softwood/conifers, I would recommend it; these ones are composting before my eyes. If you are going to make it semipermanent, it might even make sense to put landscaping fabric down before the chips, to keep them out of contact with the soil.
I think we all agree; kids need to explore, take reasonable risks, and get outdoors!



I'd love to see pictures! "Parcour" is really cool with kids in the USA, too. I asked my 9 year old, and he said, "It's basically when you jump from one pillar to another or something else." I know it's a bit more than that, but I think it's awesome that it's trendy for kids to get outside and jump around!
 
Dave Way
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Here are a few photos of the start of our ‘parcour’ ( not to be confused with the sport sometimes called parkour, although the actions are somewhat similar).
There is a sort of loop using the big tree and the off to the left and away. The old pipe is part of that. Then that large topped tree will be included when I cut holds up one side, bolt climbing holds on the other and hang a rope ladder from the one remaining branch.
The big issue is all the nettles which has returned all around the objects, making it dangerous to lose your balance!
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