My goal is to make this play yard more inviting for children to play in. This space is a fairly small area to run around in when busy with children. In order to allow the children to experience more risks and challenges involving the use of their gross motor skills, I would like to add play structures that incorporate natural materials such as tree logs and stumps for climbing and jumping off.
In the design I would like to add a hallow log, for children to climb on and climb under. The idea behind the log being hallow is it can be used as a small private space for children. Children react well to small spaces as it allows them to initiate there own space where they can privately think and reflect. Through out my design I would like to incorporate the following learning environments caves, campfires, and watering holes (International Society for Technology in Education, 2013). The log I plan to place in the re-design represents the cave, which is a space that encourages private individual time for children (International Society for Technology in Education, 2013).
I would like to integrate two areas in my re-design that invite the children to take challenges and risks. A slide with tree stumps used as stairs to climb up welcome the children to use physical skills such as balance, agility and coordination, and thinking skills such as problem solving. The stumps will all be different heights and levels leading up to the slide. I was inspired by Earthscape Play playground designs to use this type of slide design. I found this slide beneficial for children’s development as it’s a challenge for children to climb which can encourage mastery of new skills. Below is a slide used in one of Earthscape Play‘s school yard revitalizations where I got the inspiration to include it in my re-design.
The last climbing structure I would like to add is a suspended rope web to climb. The web will provide children the opportunity to use coordination and balance skills as they try climb across the web. This web could also be used as an unofficial sitting area for children, as it can promote the sharing of ideas through conversation with its circle shape. The web incorporates the idea of watering holes, “The watering hole is an informal space where peers can share information and discoveries, acting as both learner and teacher simultaneously. This shared space can serve as an incubator for ideas and can promote a sense of shared culture” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2013). This space can spontaneously lead to many individual and group learning experiences. Such a great space to hang out!
Other things I plan to use to integrate the concept of watering holes are a music wall, sand box, and tepee. The music wall and tepee will be accessible for all children of all exceptionalities.
The music wall will be a great way to include music play and experimentation in an outdoor space. A music wall mainly includes items such as pots and pans, metal or plastic pipes, chimes, and symbols. Music walls allow children to explore music and sound through simply touching objects or using a percussion mallet to create sound. The music wall will heighten children auditory senses. The great part about the music wall is several children may use it at once, which allows for children to have the opportunity to cooperate and even work with one another by sharing discoveries and creating musical beats.
A sand box will be great to incorporate sensory exploration. Sand is an open ended medium. Sand allows for children to explore properties through feel and touch. Meanwhile sand can also be used for free creative exploration. Playing with sand can be very relaxing, as well as empowering, since sand can be manipulated in any way. Sand promotes cognitive, physical, and social development, and integrates math, science, and art as well. The sand box will be large enough to have several children playing in it at a time, which will encourage social interaction between children. The sand box will also be covered with a canopy, to provide shade and also create the warm feeling of a small secluded space.
I decided to incorporate a large wooden tepee frame into the design to provide a space that adds the feeling of being being in a secluded space, but it still allows for visibility. This tepee frame will have an entry way accessible for children in wheel chairs and walkers. Under the tepee frame wooden discs will be available for children to use for building or loose parts play. The tepee may also promote social interaction with one another. It is set up as a circle where children can easily sit face to face to one another. Not only can the area be used for building, but it can simply be used as a space for small group learning (known as a campfire) or a place where children just want to be together (known as a watering hole). Simple gathering spaces incorporate the concepts of camp fires and watering holes, promoting the importance of interaction and sharing learning with peers and experts. Here is an example of a tepee used in Earthscape Play‘s play yard design, which I plan integrate into the re-design.
I would like to incorporate an area with seating and a chalkboard to bring parts of the classroom outside. This area may be used as a formal learning space for teachers to use as well as informal space for children to engage, socialize, communicate, create, and collaborate with each other. The chalk can also be an area that incorporates artistic expression through drawing or even telling creative stories. This area will have a seating arrangement that is placed in a way so children in wheel chairs my also access the area. This area also incorporates the concept of campfires and watering holes. A great article by the International Society for Technology in Education explains the concepts of campfires, caves and watering holes and the importance of incorporateing them into children’s learning spaces. Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes expresses the importance of building spaces, which benefit children’s development in all learning domains. Children are being greatly influenced by the digital era where there lacks spaces for children to self reflect, explore, socialize, share, and collaborate. Integrating campfires, caves and watering holes, give children the opportunity to connect with themselves and help develop their self identity. A photo below is an example of what I would like to be installed as the chalkboard and seating area.
Enhancing the aesthetics and improving function.
To enhance the aesthetics of the environment, one of the simple solutions I think will make a difference is replacing the chain link fence with a wooden one. Adding a wooden fence would make the space feel more inviting and less enclosed from the outside environment. I always look at how everyday materials can be re-used and up cycled. I discovered from Pinterest a great idea of using wooden pallets to create a fence.
By using wooden pallets money can be saved, and it creates less of a foot print on our environment as we are re-using good quality wood, that would’ve most likely been tossed away. I love how in the picture above they’ve placed small flower pots on the fence. A great way to include an area where children can grow plants. Space was a small struggle in my re-design and I wanted to incorporate many ideas that brought the indoor learning environment outside, but fitting in an area to grow plants was difficult. I had to keep in mind the space can’t have too much space being taken up by the outdoor classroom/playground areas, as children need space to run around. Therefore this idea of hanging planters on the fence is great to save on space while still including an area to grow plants. Growing plants can be a empowering experience as you learn how to harvest food and how to support the growth of a living thing. Simply learning where food comes from can lead to appreciation for it. Of course herbs and flowers are more likely to be planted in these small flower pots. These pots can add great colour and natural properties to the space.
Installing an astroturf pathway will be a great alternative to using asphalt, as its a softer material and even softer on knees. Astroturf is another way how to reduce the environmental foot print as astroturf is made from recycled tires, another example of how the space is up-cycling old materials. The pathway will lead to the designated areas of the space. I plan for the path to have lots of turns and curves to add some fun qualities to the children’s open running space.
Where ever the path does not cover grass will be placed. Grass adds colour as well as a nice softness to the space.
Adding Trees and Plants
We must remember that children’s senses are heightened when outdoors. By adding more greenery we are allowing children to use all their senses. To create an environment that does integrate the use of all senses I would add plants in free areas of the space. Children will be welcome to look at, touch, smell and even hear the leaves rustling in the wind. I would like to plant shrubs of different colours, such as green and red. Adding tall ornamental grasses can create a whimsical feel to the space. They are also low maintenance like shrubs. I love the fountain grass in the picture below as the tops of the grass are fluffy and soft, such great properties for the children to explore.
The shrubs, trees and grasses I plan to use will be Native to Ontario. It is important to use native plants in landscapes, as native plants naturally occur in the environment you live in and will thrive best out of all other plants. Here’s a list from Southern Wild Design about the benefits of using Native plants in landscapes:
- Less water …less runoff…less pollution…cleaner waterways
- Less fertilizing…less runoff…less pollution…cleaner waterways
- Less chemical pest control…less runoff…less contamination…cleaner waterways
- Greater food and habitat sources for butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife
- Greater biodiversity to reduce disease and pests http://southernwilddesign.com
Nativeplants.ca (nativeplants.ca) is a great resource to use if interested in finding sustainable native plants to add to a landscape.
My overall goal in designing this environment is to create an open ended learning space where children have the freedom to explore and discover about nature, their peers, and themselves. I want children to find inspiration within their environment. I wanted to make this space as natural as possible. By building a natural space children’s health and education will be benefited and the overall environment will benefit from this project. Adding plants, trees and other natural materials can reconnect children to nature through play and help others find their appreciation for it.