Our Backyard Play Space
Playing outside is so important to my family. We love having structured and unstructured time outside. When we move into a new house we set to work getting the kids’ indoor playroom and outdoor play space set up. Each house is a new challenge, but we always come up with something fun that both adults and kids can enjoy.
Our Florida house had a patio and tuns of mature plants, but the previous owners didn’t have kids, so there wasn’t any existing play structure. We loved all the shade and privacy the trees provided, but struggled to find enough space for a play structure. Instead, we created a bunch of small play spaces integrated into the existing landscaping.
The Yard Before
When we purchased the house the yard had tons of plants and a beautiful stone patio but not much else. Many parts of the garden were overgrown. As we started to trim things back we found stone benches and yard decorations that had been swallowed by the yard.
Come on in and take a look around.
One of the first things we did was add a play structure to the yard. We didn’t have a ton of space and wanted something to encourage open-ended play. We ended up with the climbing dome from HearthSong.
We love how many options the dome provides for the kids. They can play under it and over it. It can be a store or a house. It is constantly in play when the littles are outside.
Woods Play Area
The fence line of the property has a little wooded area. We cleaned out all the dead limbs and now the kids can climb and play behind the trees. There are a few good climbing trees, where the Big Little can see into his friend’s backyard.
This little secret path along the fence line houses the boys’ mud kitchen, where many a gross concoction is made. And the entrance has a mirror that makes it appear as though you can walk straight through into the neighbor’s yard.
Fort Building Area
One of the things the boys asked for was an area where they could build stick forts like they used to do in the Netherlands. Almost every park we would go to would have sticks for you to build structures with. We had a ton of sticks from cutting down all the dead limbs, so we made a pile for the boys to play with. Then we took it up a notch by giving the boys Stick-lets.
These Stick-lets come in different shapes that are designed to hold sticks together so you can create amazing forts. These little rubber pieces take some of the frustration out of piling sticks. Once you have a frame you can lay other sticks on top fo them to make walls. They are easy enough to use, so the Big Little (7) and Middle Little (5) can easily use them on their own.
Honestly, I loved playing with them as well! A plastic plant basket is the perfect place to throw them all between uses.
One of the first projects I knew I wanted to do was a bean pole teepee. We cut some bamboo from a neighbor’s yard. (With their permission, of course.) The soil back here isn’t great so I had to add a layer of soil to grow the beans in. The beans sprouted right up and started climbing. We don’t get a huge crop, just a few beans each week. The boys love to snack on them raw though, so it works out perfectly.
We fell in love with line drying our clothing in the Netherlands. There is just something so lovely about clothes that dry on the line. (We know how to make sure they are not crunchy!) I wanted to have a large clothesline in the yard for drying our wash as well as hanging towels when we come back from the beach and pool.
Jeff built the clothesline using 4x4s sunk 24″ into the ground. He anchored each post with cement (1 bag total). The frame pieces are attached with 3″ screws and 3/8″ lag bolts and corresponding nuts. The clothesline is attached to the frame using eyelets. The wood is all pressure treated. Jeff used 3/4″ pressure treated plywood for the seat, supported by 2x4s. The seat is secured using 2″ screws.
Small Vegetable Garden
The vegetable garden is still very much a work in progress! This part of the yard needed the most work when we moved in. Jeff built a few raised beds as well as an enclosed compost bin to sit against the fence line. We mostly let the kids pick what to plant.
The area expanded as things grew and the side yard began to take shape. Jeff built a trellis for all the squash and cucumbers to climb. He also added an old mailbox to the area for me to store my gardening tools. It is great to have everything already in the garden when I head out there.
This area still needs some work. I need to plant a ground cover and get some pavers down along the pathway.
The Garden has also proven to be a wonderful place for the kids to study the plants and animals. Our crop has been greatly hampered by so many bugs, but it has been a great way for the kids to learn all about the bugs that live in the garden.
In an effort to help control the bugs we hatched some praying mantis babies and released them into the garden. We have seen one or two around, but the others have likely become food for the lizards.
The boys love harvesting the vegetables though. Our eggplants have been wildly successful.
We were given a garden windmill as a gift when we left the Netherlands. We were not really sure where we would put it in our new house.
We set it back into the yard just off the grass so we could see it from the house. The Littles moved a few other little bug houses that way as well.
Before we knew it, the Plyamobile was set up underneath the windmill. Some broken pieces of flagstone were relocated to make a pathway. It is one of the most heavily used areas of our garden. It is like an outdoor dollhouse. It looks adorable sitting in the forest and is a great jumping off point for play.
The outdoor seating area is perfect for entertaining. We added some furniture we already had and updated the cushions on the pieces that were left in the house.
The funny thing about Florida is that the garden is much more useful in the Spring and Fall than it is in the summer. This means we are often out here when it is dark in the evening. So, we put up some string lights using this kit. It really makes the patio look lovely in the evening and adds enough light to have it be used year round.
The Work Continues
We still have a lot we would like to do out here. The summer has put a halt to almost everything, because it is just too hot to be outside playing! Instead we are inside enjoying our playroom. When we are outside we choose to be at the neighborhood pool or on the beach!