Thursday, April 28, 2011

Couldn't wait for a Weekend

Our handy-mandy Site Director and all around wonderwoman, Melanie took it upon herself to create some more decomposed granite paths and natural branch edgings. We absolutely love the clarity and exploring nature of the path. The kids are having so much fun with each new addition to the natural playscape as it unfolds, or shall I say as it is unearthed.

Here are a few added photos to keep you all in the loop. And keep those ideas flowing. We need more plants, more stepping stones and you may start to bring aluminum cans and bottles for our recycling fundraising event. What a great way to give back to the earth by recycling and putting it into our "earth" playscape.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Keeping it Wild!

While transitioning our once lawn stomped to dirt yard into the first phase of our Natural Playscape, we are discovering although it is a fun space to play in, it's not so eye appealing. Our slide hill covered with new sod is looking a little wimpy. We must keep it wet and get the grass to take hold. The children are so enthralled with the sand pits and Mud-Pie kitchen they are not even bothered with not being able to play on the slide hill yet.

But, my vision is that it will be filled with wild looking grasses and meadow-like flowers. I can see it, now we gotta make it so!

The next phase or two will be calling for new ideas. We need to fundraise and idea-raise for the other two yard areas. Our idea is to have a moveable barrier so that infants and toddlers can technically be in the yard space without interruption. We have discussed moveable raised garden boxes that would create a fence like barrier and even can be gated for access between the wooden garden boxes. But what exactly do we want to do, what new ideas to add to the other areas?

Open for ideas. The mud pie kitchen was a wonderful idea that I stole from someone else. The ponds filled with sand and dry bridge were a great idea and the sand hill (with slide) from many Natural Playscape sites. So.... now, what for infants and toddlers?

Add a comment or call me. Let's get busy.

We will be taking your recycleable cans and plastic bottles (no glass) and using this refund and recycle to fund our ongoing playground needs. What a great way to let recycle monies get us back to nature!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Safe Water Feature for the Peace Garden in our Natural Playscape

Some of our specific components that we are very proud of are as follows: I created a buried water feature. Water features are tricky around children, because they cannot have a basin that holds water and the potential for drowning. So this is a borrowed idea from a magazine, with much adjusting and help from the web. I can’t remember the site (my apologies). My original idea was a millstone fountain that spills from the center and re-circulates under the millstone. Aha! But even a faux millstone was upwards of $300.00 So, from a query on the internet I made a faux-faux millstone with my own inventiveness. And it actually worked, which is not always the case.
  • I used a plastic garden pot (14”), the type with a hole in the middle for flowers to be planted in a ring (like a large bundt cake pan). This became my underground basin.
  • I dug the ground out so that this pot would sit even with the soil. Before laying it down, I lined the soil with garden plastic, making sure it crept out several inches on all sides to prevent dirt from dropping onto water basin.
  • Then, using a plastic planer tray (13”) also with a hole in the center (the kind that is normally under your planter) upside-down in the water basin.
  • I used a small fountain pump and three 4-5 inch river rocks to hold the tray slightly above the basin and the pump. The upside-down planter tray becomes your faux millstone.
  • My pump spout actually stuck out of the hole in the tray, but my plan to be safe would be to cover the entire “millstone” with river rocks and in the meantime it would cover the plastic look of my fake fountain.

The result is a safe, bubbling fountain that seems to spring from nowhere. It makes a lovely sound and the pump electrical cord is tucked beneath a toad house. A little magic here and there helps!

Less defined, mostly messy and that's okay

The first full week of our Natural Playscape with the children in it full force has been quite an event. We’ve added round rocks around the sand pit to create some natural definition and an edge to limit the sand from being removed completely. An alumni parent (Kyle’s dad) has been cutting and shaping wood branches to use as edging around one of the paths. We have added stepping stones into the decomposed granite walking trail as these pavers have become available from donations, (Daniel’s mom and dad). We’ve watered the existing plants and have had several more donated (Eisely’s mom) for future planting. The grass sod purchased is being watered to hope it will begin to grow… and the kids have been very agreeable to stay off the slide hill to help the grass get rooted. Many parents and grandparents have been dragged out to the yard to see the new playscape, which I must admit seems less defined and mostly messy when I observe them viewing it. But to the kids, it’s heavenly! And that’s the whole point.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And let them make a mess!

Today we really got to see the children play in our new playscape. Although it is still a work in progress, the newness and the options that this yard opened up for the kids was amazing. Their imagination was immediately ignited. As teachers, we had to rethink some of our "rules" and find some negotiating points for changing old limits in favor of creativity. Hip hip hooray!
We added some new variety of grass-like plants to the as yet unused Slide Hill. When they grow I want the feeling of sliding down the hill in a meadow, not just lawn. But we must learn to be patient while the sod takes hold. We determined we would add a sand pit at the base of the slide to cushion the fall.
We planted a bit more sod to green up the front area.
We will be adding more stepping stones or pavers around the apple tree for a fun, spiral walk...not a true labrynth, but close.
All in all, we couldn't be more delighted with the change. It's so nice for the children to be thrilled to go and play outside, really be busy and doing not just hovering. So...I say keep the outdoor ideas flowing. Oh, yeah we still have the other half of the yard to redo.
So.... come on folks and pitch in with labor, money or ideas! My favorite play was Solise making "Soup Salad".

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Phase 2 and the Playscape Crew!

Can't say enough to thank those parents and teachers who came out on a Sunday afternoon to put their hard work, back muscles and imaginations to work. What a great feat!

Phase 2... What a Successful Day

Today with the help of teachers, parents and extended family we had a huge plan and actually completed all the tasks we had planned to tackle. We sunk the sandboxes, using plastic pond liners to add to the more natural shape of the yard; scraped out a walking path and layered with decomposed granite; built a slide hill (using displaced dirt from sunken ponds) and laying down sod to take root; created a mudpie kitchen complete with dinner bell at children's level soon to be added some log tables and chairs; we created a brick circle to hold the plants under birch trees; created two small willow arches (although we used maple); and the water feature, a faux millstone fountain that is buried under river rock with no exposed water danger but a lovely trickling sound among the river rocks. And we have a large pot with fresh herbs to add to our meals and gardening skills.
We will need to continue cleaning up and eventually edging the granite walking path and continuing in behind the slide hill. The slide hill was too unstable to place stepping stones today. We will wait for those as well. We may path in the missing sod in the next day or two with some wild looking grassy plants to add to the natural feeling of the slide hill.
We have left a small gap area where we've planted an apple tree and a few flowers. This open space will eventually become our sound garden, chimes, drums, bamboo reeds.....
Let the spring weather rule! California sunshine with some showers to secure the plantings.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tomorrow we complete Phase 2!

Caring Connection teachers and parents are lining up for our Dig and Plant event tomorrow, Sunday April 17th. We will dig for our natural shape sandboxes, fill them; dig for the walking path and line with decomposed granite; create our Mud-Pie kitchen, plant varieties of growing things to green up the dirt and put stepping stones in place. Our existing huge logs will be places in grouping areas and our willow tunnel will be creating (using maple sapplings).

Beyond the Planning Meeting, March 2011

In March 2011, we had a few parents and a few teachers to share our vision of creating a Natural Playscape playground to make Caring Connection the "jewel" of the area. We've divided the backyard into 5 basic areas: The Peace Garden The Sand and Walking Yard The Cement and Driving Yard The separated Toddler and Two's area. Phase One: Teacher Susan and Director Julie worked to create the beginnings of our Peace Garden including stepping stones, a cement bench and new plants. Phase Two: Natural shaped sandboxes will be created by using pond liners and set into the soil. Removed soil will create our hill for a slide area. Decomposed granite will be tamped down onto a walking path which will wind all around and through the 2 sandboxes. A willow tunnel will be created over the walking path in one or more areas. Plants will be added to this more natural space and large sitting logs will be moved and secured. Our Mud-Pie kitchen will be added to the center most part of the playscape will pretend sink and pretend stove, pots, pans and utensils. Pavers will fill in the soil spaces to add unique and interesting hang out areas. Phase Three: A moveable barrier will be created with flower beds filled with dwarf trees and low growing plants for children to enjoy as a garden area. These planters will line up to create a barrier for the south side of the playscape to separate use and limit use for visual supervision. Phase Four: We have not yet decided how to renovate the existing bark area. Pending....

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