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10 Things Every Child Needs in Their Outdoor Play Space

10 Things Every Child Needs in Their Outdoor Play Space

Even though it was -18 today in Michigan, I'm already planning things to add to my daughter's outdoor play area. Don't get me wrong, we're loving our time outside this winter, but I can't help but dream of the muddy days to come.

Designing a children's outdoor play space doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, I'm trying to make a real effort on the blog to include easier, natural activities.

Also, if you live in an urban environment with no backyard, a lot of these can be found/done at your local park or community garden! Here are ten things that can make a child's outdoor play space all that more special:

1. A Secret Place

Kids need somewhere they can breath, be alone and feel free. What makes a place secret? Make it their size, construct "walls" and have it in a slightly obscured location. Whether it's a clubhouse or just a sheet draped over some some tree limbs, the main idea is to prompt them to create a world of their own.

Kids outside secret fort made out of sticks
via Magic Onions

More Great Ideas:

2. A Water Feature

Where there is water, there is fun. Enough said.

Homemade water wall outdoor kids play area
Homemade Water Wall via Happy Hooligans

More Great Ideas:

3. Mud Glorious Mud

Whether it's mud pies or just digging for rocks, kids need to get dirty! I know that our mud kitchen was my daughter's favorite part of our outdoor play area this past summer. And if you really want to pair this activity down just give the kids some dirt and a bowl - trust me they will find their own wild materials.

Mud pie kitchen for kids outdoor play spaces
Designing an Outdoor Mud Pie Kitchen

More Muddy Ideas:

4. Something to Climb On

As parents of all young children know, climbing is a natural instinct. Trees, stumps, rocks - they all present an opportunity for our kids to test their limits and go higher!

Climbing outdoor play area kids
via Little Eco Footprints

More Great Ideas:

5. Something to Grow

For us, gardening is one of the fundamentals, and plays a unique role in our daughter's outdoor space! It may seem daunting, but there are some really easy ways to set up a growing area.

Quick gardens for kids
via Keep it Simple Sister

More Great Ideas:

6. A Place to Create

I always feel so much more creative when I'm outside. It is such a bonus to have an area where the kids can write, make art, music and even put on plays for each other. It doesn't matter if it is as simple as making mandalas on the ground with natural items, art and nature just go together!

Painting With Eggs via Growing a Jeweled Rose
Painting With Eggs on Canvas

More Great Ideas:

7. Something to Swing On

I'll never forgot the rope swing in my grandparents' yard. It was such a simple design, but whenever any of my siblings or cousins mention those years, that swing is always in the picture. Swinging is blissful and every child deserve a chance to feel the wind against their face as they propel themselves towards the sky.

Skateboard Swing kids outdoor
via sk8swing

More Great Ideas:

8. Open-Ended Materials

Spontaneous, unorganized play is the foundation of a child's time spent outside. In the spirit of the adventure playground movement, I like to have loose items and material available for my daughter to create with. They have no set "purpose" except for her to imagine, build and create with.

Loose parts and open-ended kids play
Loose Parts Play via In The Playroom

More Great Ideas:

9. Something They Choose

I've definitely been guilty of getting caught up in my own ideas and forgetting to ask my daughter what she really wants. Making sure our kids have a stake in the project can connect them to their space. Some things I'm trying to ask her are:

  • What's your favorite thing to do outside?
  • Do you like this here?
  • What color should we paint this?
  • Do you want to name your clubhouse?
  • Is there anything special you want to bring outside from your room?
  • Are we missing anything?
  • Want to go collecting materials with me?

10. Something for The Big Kids

Trust me, you don't want to leave this one out! It's wonderful to interact with our children, but the truth is sometimes they just need to get lost in the moment without us. This past summer we installed two hammocks and it instantly transformed the children's play area into a mixed-use space that we all love to be in (no this isn't mine in the picture - I'm not quite there yet :).


So these are on my list, what's on yours?

Your Woman Gone Wild,


PS. Want more ideas? Head over to Wildschooling, Wilder Child's private Facebook group. It's a dynamic community of parents & educator helping each other grow wild. See you there!


10 Things Every Child Needs in the Backyard

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  • I’m very passionate about time with kids (have my own Lithuanian blog about creative time with kids) and everyday I see how happy and free they are while playing outside. I’m very happy to find this blog with so much inspiration and things I believe are great! Thank you very much! ?

  • Thanks so much, so happy you feel the same. Yes, it’s so true – I just wish more kids could get out there and get dirty. They are naturally so tuned in, they just need a little time and space to activate those senses.

  • These are fantastic tips =) Kids should be spending more time outside playing with dirt than trapped inside a ‘spic and span’ home. Dirt heals us both on a mental and physical level. It teaches them responsibility, teamwork and cooperation.


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