Playscape: Nature Cubby

This year I am working hard to improve our backyard, and create a playscape rich in natural opportunities for learning, discovering, playing and growing.

When we added our Dirt Kitchen to the backyard last year, you might remember that I started training a vine into a roof of sorts.  Here’s an image of it in August, 2010:

It was growing so well that it began to weigh the strings down, so I started thinking about ways to prop it up. Then wandering the aisles at Bunnings (as you do…) I found this arch for under $10.  I figured it was worth a try, and it turns out it was perfect for the job. I didn’t want it to be the full height, so I just left a few pieces off.  Then I went back to Bunnings and bought a second one!!

Look at it now!! With all the rain we’ve had in Brisbane, most plants have seen rapid growth.  Instead of just a roof, now we have a whole nature cubby growing.  Every day we see new growth, and the kids and I are enjoying winding the tendrils around the arches to create our walls and roof.  That “shady space” I said I was dreaming of back in August is looking like a reality – and all for the grand sum of $20. Bargain.

Stay tuned for more posts about our nature cubby, this interesting vine, and the creatures that are making this cubby house their home.

PS – I’ve updated my About page with heaps of new info including my values, where you can find me, a photo gallery and more. Check it out!!

Outdoor Multi-Age Play

Thanks to a recent pupil-free day, my children had the opportunity to have a play date in our backyard with a group of kids of varying ages (from 2 – 12).  I encouraged them to make cubby houses, and gave them them access to the following materials:

  • one sheet
  • string
  • scissors
  • anything already in the backyard (rocks, sticks, bamboo, etc)

It was amazing to watch the kids interact.  The boys and girls naturally split into two “teams” and worked to make two separate cubbies.

The Girls

This cubby was built mainly by a 4 year old and 12 year old who worked together, sharing ideas and workload.  They identified “areas” in their cubby such as the storage area, entrance way, living area and even a toilet area!  They decorated their cubby with strips of palm leaves lashed to fabric which hung down over the entrance.  There was even a doorbell!  All over the cubby were labels either written on pieces of cardboard or directly onto rocks.  I especially loved the rocks at the front door (pictured above) welcoming visitors to the Girls’ Cubby House – with one rock scrawled in the emergent writing of a 4yr old and the other by a 12yr old’s hand.  Precious.

The Boys

The boys were brilliant at sourcing materials from their environment.  It was their idea to cut down some bamboo to use, so I showed them how to work the large secateurs safely and then let them chop down what they needed.  It was fantastic to see their careful and intelligent use of the tools.  They stripped the leaves from the bamboo, leaving sturdy sticks which they then used for structures in and around their cubby.  They lashed together a fence to identify the boundaries of their space, and built an impressive teepee shaped entrance way.  The entrance was marked by a bamboo arrow on the ground, and a circle of rocks sourced from the creek bed.

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I was both challenged and encouraged by the differences between the girls’ and boys’ cubby houses.  Sometimes in my desire to give equal opportunities to both boys and girls, I neglect to celebrate the unique differences between them.  Watching these kids served as an excellent reminder.  But best of all, I just loved that for TWO WHOLE HOURS, seven children between the ages of 2 and 12 worked cooperatively, creatively, intelligently, safely, and with minimal adult interference – without a “toy” in sight.

Do your kids have the opportunity to play with children of varying ages?  And have you noticed differences in the ways boys and girls play outdoors?