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  • Writer's pictureJeanine VanSise

Creating Our Outdoor space!

As our first full school year gets closer (I can't believe it is almost August!), I have been trying to build some magical spaces for the kids to use in our backyard. I was lucky enough to find a space in Portland with a fairly large, fully fenced, backyard with garden boxes, two large decks, and interesting nooks and crannies for the kids to explore! When I was growing up, my time playing outside encouraged TONS of imaginative play...going on adventures, finding bugs, building forts, baking in my mud kitchen...anything I could think up. I hope to encourage this same kind of creativity and imaginative play for the kids during their time at preschool. Because our yard was a blank slate when I moved in, I spent some time thinking about what kinds of structures should be built first- keeping in mind the changes I hope to make over the years to come! My father's work had a bunch of old pallets and lumber that they didn't need so I decided to try my hand at designing some outdoor equipment-and building it myself from scratch! There has definitely been some trial and error, and I still get a little bit scared using power tools on my own...but its exciting to see the ideas come to life. I am hoping the kids will help me come up with some more ideas once our school year begins! Here are a few of my favorite outdoor spaces so far:


Our Sand Boat & Sand Kitchen: I always dreamed of having a sand boat in Eugene, but had a hard time finding one that was affordable. I lucked out finding this cute turquoise aluminum rowboat on Craigslist. I ordered some beach sand, because it is so much nicer to play with, and added a sail to give us some shelter from the sun and rain. If you try this at home just make sure to drill some holes around the bottom or the water the kids add to the sand boat will not be able to drain!

Our large sand kitchen was built from pallets. I wanted it to be large enough for many children to enjoy at once, so its long and deep with two "sinks" (made from IKEA kids drawers) and a water pitcher with an easy-to-use spout! I always check out thrift shops for non-plastic sand toys like muffin tins, spoons, miniature pots and pans, and fun bunt cake pans!

Our Adventure Vehicle: I don't know where I got the idea for this, or exactly how it will look when it is completely finished, but I do know that the kids really LOVE it! I built the base out of the used lumber I picked up and searched and searched for some old, cheap, school chairs! Getting the chairs separated from their metal legs wasn't easy, but it was soooo worth it! With a little bit of paint they look cute as a button! I tried pretty hard to make the design as simple as possible so that we can transform it into a boat, a train, a car, a bus, a ship, or a rocket! I am still waiting on some additional steering wheels and accessories to arrive but we do have a ship steering wheel and telescope attached to the back and the kids spent a lot of time climbing up and down onto the standing platform to steer and explore!

Our Chicken Coop: Our chicken coop is located in our front yard, which isn't fully fenced yet. We spend the majority of our time observing the chickens from the deck in our backyard, which overlooks the coop area. The kids can easily toss seeds and worms to the chickens and watch them as they eat and wander around doing silly chicken things! Eventually, I plan to fence in our front yard and add a pygmy goat area...making time to go out and interact with the animals on a daily basis!

Stay tuned for our DIY pallet water walls for our upcoming water exploration week! I am already working out design ideas because we will definently want to spend time in the water during the month of August! If you have any fun outdoor play ideas, share them in the comments below!!

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