Today I rolled some big cut logs that never got chopped and put them by my garden. My little ones LOVE the challengs of climbing and jumping from thing to thing, and these big logs seemed like the perfect, free, natural thing for them to play on. As they get more nimble, I can easily scoot the logs further apart. 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." My daughter loved walking in circles from log to log and then holding my hand and jumping down. I was amazed at how quickly she became more and more nimble, making less errors and needing less help!
Climbing up and climbing down!
See that herb spiral just feet from the logs? It's a perfect place for a snack!
We got a load of gravel and used it to make a gravel bed for the kids to scoop and dump in. We were torn about putting down a layer of something under the gravel, but settled on just weeding really well and applying a thick layer of gravel. We did use some broken granite slabs that we'd gotten for free to act as a barrier to hopefully keep blackberry from growing in the sides (we laid them down first along the edges and then covered with the boarder logs and gravel). For the boarder logs, we used some old cedar trees we'd cut and debarked a few years back, as well as some cedar stumps from our ring of stumps. These holds back the gravel, and also give a place for us to sit. We even sat and ate our lunch there today!
So far, the kids are loving it. As I was filling it up with gravel, my son brought over his dumptruck to the gravel pile and filled it with his shovel and then pushed it all the way to their gravel pit to dump it. Then they fboth started scooping and dumping with their shovels while I brought over more gravel in my wheel barrow.
Once I got the stumps set up, my kids decided these were fantastic for climbing on and jumping off of. The gravel is a bit softer to land in than the grass or the floor in our house, so they really had fun with this.
Eventually, I would like to build a raised bed on the south side of it, and erect a trellis (you might notice some black metal in the background. That's a trellis we were given), and grow kiwis over the pit. It'll give us a shady place to play in the hot summer months, and a place to grow kiwis. That's my hope, anyway!
Here's the playpit, all finished! The kids LOVE digging in it and jumping off the logs.
I got the garden bed finished for growing the kiwis, too! I ordered the Issai kiwi plant a few days ago (and couldn't resist ordering some strawberries, too), so I'll have kiwis and strawberries growing here hopefully. I made it by sticking bamboo stakes upright and sliding the alder logs between them. The front section I made by weaving bamboo wattle-fence style (I wish I'd had enough bamboo to do the whole bed like that!). I filled it with some rotting alder logs and all the dirt I'd excavated when digging out their playpit, then coved the weedy dirt with paper feed sacks and covered those with duck bedding in hopes to keep the weeds from taking over the bed before the other plants get established.
I'm trying to figure out what to do for the trellis. We'd been given some metal trellis/pergola stuff...but it's kind of rusty and even falling apart in places, and I don't really want the kids getting cut by it. I'm thinking maybe making a roundwood pergola/trellis over it, but I don't know how to build stuff. If anyone has any tips, I'd love some! (I started a thread about the pergola/trellis thing here)
I grew up on a farm so we bought some pretty nice tractors, and so we often had toy tractors given to me by the tractor dealerships. I am talking the steel and plastic Errtl type toy tractors...
But my dad made this 2x4 "low bed" that if you cocked your head just right, did a lot of imagining, MIGHT be able to see some yucky cut wood and wheels that was supposed to be a truck. But I drove that truck for MILES on the floors of the house.
With kids it does not take a lot to inspire them. It is almost a shame that companies exploit parents into thinking the flashiest of things is what their children really want.
I've always loved looking for crystals and pretty rocks, and Travis's geocatching with his kids got me inspired.
The gravel we used in the playpit was the type that compacts well for a road, so I had my husband buy a few bags of nice pea gravel, and I ordered some cheap bulk gemstones. I put the gemstones down, and covered them up with the new gravel. Time to dig for gemstones!
Found some hematite!
Crystals in the dumptruck and hematite (my son's favorite!) in the car transporter, and a pot to wash the rocks in. There's still about 1/3rd of the rocks still hidden for more future finding!
Hiding the gemstones is an awesome idea! As a kid I had a'rock shop' of 'gemstones' (umm.. a piece of wood as a shelf with bits of tile dug up from the drive building-site on it... but it amused me for hours)
It's three years since I started this thread, almost to the day! I thought it might be neat to update it, to show that a permaculture playground does not need to be expensive, and it doesn't have to be done all at once, for the kids to enjoy it! So, a few days ago, I followed my kids around with a camera, snapping pictures while they wandered from one play area to another.
My kids still love using the garden bed logs as balance beams. They often go around walking around each and every one of the garden beds. The fact that some of the logs have decomposed a bit and are more unstable, just seems to add to the challenge and fun.
We planted kale years ago. We haven't planted it since. It's just "self" seeded. I put "self" in quotes, because one of my kids' favorite things to do is take the old dry seed heads and run around shaking them. They pretend the seeds are "exhaust" and they are cars. And thus we get russian red kale growing every where. I won't complain!
They both still love the keyhole garden. I keep dividing the sorrel to get more of it, and they love to come and munch on it!
Those are all things I've had around for 3+ years. They still love playing and using them. And over the years, we've added more. I kind of like the fact that their play area has grown with them, and they've taken part in it's creation. It makes it more special. A little over two years ago, I went to go cut down one of the limbs on this maple tree for a SKIP badge bit, and my kids decided that the place was going to be their "Tree Fort House." (More about Tree Fort House here). They still love playing at it, and it's a big hit when there's other kids over!
And, about a year and a half ago, my son (inspired by the people at Wheaton Labs), wanted to have an underground house. So, over time, we dug out the base, built the structure, and (just a few days ago), covered it with cedar branches and solarlights. These past few days have been in the upper 70s, and my kids have loved hiding in there from the heat! (We've added more branches since I took these pictures. You can see more pictures in my thread about it)
The kiwis on our pergola haven't grown fast enough to give shade, but the kids still love playing on the structure and in the gravel pit!
When we moved in, we didn't have any trees that were suitable for climbing. They were either too tall (big leaf maples, and hemlocks) or just too painful to climb, like the cedars. We were bummed that the kids wouldn't have any trees to climb. Apparently, if you plant a semi-dwarf when you're pregnant, your child might have a tree they can climb by the time they are 7! It's a good thing we didn't cut the tree down 3 years ago, because now it makes lots of apples and it great for climbing!
Playgrounds don't have to be complicated. Kids can enjoy all sorts of stuff. They have this garden bed that's divided in half, with a path down the middle. They LOVE climbing on that rock and jumping over the garden bed into the path you see my daughter walking on. The challenge of "don't step in the garden" makes it even more fun!
They'll play with most anything. I cut down this tree, and the kids decided it was a perfect balance beam. The branches made it slightly springy, and a lot of fun to walk on (yes, I totally played on it, too!)
I love this thread, and I loved it three years ago when I first saw it. It was an inspiration for us to design our yard as what we describe as a bunch of attractive nuisances. The neighborhood kids can’t get enough of it. And your image of a fallen tree as a balance beam has just given me some ideas.
Clay, shade, neighbor’s Norway maples.....we’ll work it out.
Brings back excellent childhood memories! My primary schooldays were in the 1970s just after 'dutch elm disease' wiped out most of England's elm trees. Our school had several trees taken down and these logs were chopped into chunks like yours for multi purpose play. At home the sand pit was a favourite haunt: turf walled with no lining other than the clay you found if you dug too deep. I love your idea of treasure in the gravel, all we found were the dog's bones, which he buried there because the soil was nice and soft! The metal swing frame made a multi storey den with planks and old blankets.....We had such a dangerous climbing frame, which we used to make into a treehouse of sorts. I never told my parents I fell right from the top (maybe 12 ft?) When I was about 9. Lucky it was a soft grass landing.
Today, the kids' gravel pit doubled as a science lab!
My son wanted to make a volcano. With the help of citric acid, baking soda, a bit of soap and food coloring, and vinegar, we have an eruption! (Added bonus, all the acids/bases went down into the gravel, rather than into the plants!)
I love how much life the kids dig pit has gotten, and how it's use changes over time (my son is also digging in in a different section of it to try and reach the water level )
When your kids are done outside playing, and you want some sit-down time, the Youtube lecture series this link is an example of:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcSPrk9l22I is all about geology of the Pacific North West. The ones he recorded during covid, had kids watching and asking questions in the livelink that ran then, so you may find your son might enjoy them - or at least parts of them - if you pick and choose. Volcanos and earthquakes and even tsunamis have gotten plenty of air-time! I wonder if your son could imitate the action of a tsunami in your gravel pit?
Further up you mentioned hiding interesting rocks. I haven't watched this one yet, so do look at his other lectures if you think this one won't work:
When I made this thread, I just wanted to help other parents looking for ideas for a permaculture playground. It never occurred to me that it would be a perfect thread to look back upon as my children aged.
So often, in photo albums and especially social media, photos and memories are scattered. They're either barely organized, or organized by date, and it's hard to get side-by-sides of how life has changed and grown. This thread, though, lets me see how my kids have grown alongside the garden, and I can see how they've changed how they play and interact. It's a beautiful thing.
And so, for my future self--and for anyone who can benefit from these experiences--here are some pictures of my kids playing outside over the past year.
Snow changes every landscape into a much more fun one. Since we have hills, the kids loved sledding. They also made snow forts and snow men and snow angels.
We tapped the maple trees in the woods, which the kids loved! They really got excited about seeing how much sap was pouring.
I've found that my kids really enjoy planting in a bare garden more than in their raised (untilled) garden beds. I think they like the simplicity of starting with ground the chickens tilled, smoothing it out, throwing out seeds, and then harrowing them into the ground and seeing what does well!
Tree climbing is always fun! Both kids climbed my son's apple tree
Fun, crazy weather events are a good excuse to go outside! They heard the hail and we all ran out to run in it!
They loved berry picking this year, and one time went out with the little baskets I'd made to pick berries
Our neighbors gave us their old play cabin. I made a scrubby pad out of rushes, and my daughter went to town cleaning it...whilst decked out in hydrangeas. She also decorated her cabin with hydrangeas she found near by. She LOVES going out and picking flowers for me, too, and I'm glad we've planted pollinator flowers for her to enjoy. When I started gardening, I thought I would only plant edible flowers. But, my daughters loves the decorative, so we've incorporated that in.