Backyard playgrounds

I’ve been thinking about reworking the backyard a bit (or a lot, maybe) to make it more play-friendly for my kids.

The space worked well when they were preschoolers. I resisted the traditional cubby house – kids seem to get bored with them fast, and I saw so many unused cubbies that were damp and spider-filled places full of broken toys. Instead, we had a steel-pole teepee decorated with shells, beads and vines, surrounded by little bushes for the kids to hide behind. There was an open sandy area, a muddy patch for digging, some big granite rocks to step on, old ceramic pipes for channelling water through, and a wooden stove with pots and pans. An 8-foot round (ugly) trampoline took up most of the small patch of lawn, but it was used every day. And the paulownia tree grew as fast as the kids, providing a great little tree to climb and swing on.

Five years on; the kids are 6 and almost 9, and some changes are needed. The bushes have grown, making the sandy area too cramped. The teepee is too small. The tree’s growth has slowed down, and the kids are too heavy to swing on it without snapping branches. The trampoline is still used daily, though.

I see lots of families catering to toddlers and pre-schoolers in the garden, but once the kids get to school age, the cubby and swingset are sold, the lawn is restored and that’s it for the kids. But my kids still want to play in the garden. What they need now is:

– somewhere to climb and swing.
– somewhere to hide.
– somewhere to make things.

I’m thinking maybe a open, elevated platform/fort type set-up; maybe some monkey bars; maybe something built around the base of the tree? Does anyone know someone who builds this kind of thing in Melbourne??

I’d also like to look at the plants that have grown in the past 5 years – how they could be trimmed, shaped, maybe have hollows underneath, maybe a better mulch cover so the spaces underneath could be used for playing.

We went bushwalking near Mount Macedon a few weeks ago, on a drippy, foggy day, to a muddy waterhole called Sanatorium Lake, the site of a former tuberculosis sanatorium. It was an eerie yet wonderful place. The mossy plants formed arches over the path, and the lake was surrounded by an abundance of dead branches, thick mud and stepping stones – bliss for children.

I’m inspired by this blog: playgrounddesigns.blogspot.com. Lots of wonderful natural playgrounds – the question is how to work it into my little backyard (while keeping the trampoline!)

My daughter looked over my shoulder and saw this photo of a playground in London:


Her reaction: “What IS IT? Whatever it is… IT LOOKS AWESOME.”

Might be a bit much for my place, but we’ll see what we can do!