Natural water play in New York’s Riverside Park
- A tree-house
- A “cave”
- Sticks and stones to build things with
- Logs and trees to climb
- A rope swing
- A pond, or at least a puddle under a faucet
- Things to catch (insects, tadpoles, lizards)
- A stream to dam (or a hose to make a stream)
- A fence to climb
- A camp-fire
Any backyard is big enough to include at least some of these, and in a form that adults can enjoy, too. A frog-pond can be as small as 18” across, or it can be in a container. An arbor can double as a tree-house, if it has a roof and a ladder – adults underneath, kids on top. A cave can be the space under a low-hanging shrub.
There are dozens of good ideas on Pinterest, many of them easy and inexpensive.
Sculpting the landscape creates multi-use play spaces
That’s what kids used to do before screens started taking up all their time – and they still do, given the opportunity. Landscapes designed for play are for all ages – a climbing structure can include lower, easier attachments as well as more difficult ones; paths and trails can accommodate joggers and mountain bikes as well as tricycles and scooters.
Landscaping for play can be a matter of sculpting the terrain so that it serves multiple active play purposes (hills can be for climbing, for running up and down, or for rolling and sledding). Or it can involve sophisticated play elements made of modern materials (a manufactured “tree swing”, a fancy zip-line, a luge-like slide).
Whatever the methods and materials, active play is an important part of family life, and including elements that will encourage active play for children and exercise for adults is an important part of landscape design.