Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Toddler

How to create a natural outdoor play area for your kids

  • All4Woman
  • Category Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Toddler

Since children who spend time in nature are healthy and happier, here are some tips for creating a natural outdoor play area in your garden…

It’s true – children who spend time in nature are healthier and happier.

Research from the University of Hong Kong found that kids who have a closer connection with nature are less distressed, less hyperactive, have fewer behavioural and emotional difficulties and have better pro-social behaviour.

Another study of children from two to 12 years old found that nature play improved children’s complex thinking skills, social skills and creativity.

According to the lead researcher Kylie Dankiw, nature play is all about playing freely.


“It’s
 about making mud pies, creating stick forts, having an outdoor adventure, and getting dirty,” says Dankiw. 

4 Natural outdoor play area ideas

Considering how much time spent in nature benefits kids, it’s not surprising that creating an outdoor play area is one of the top gardening trends for 2020. 

For those of us living in urban areas with small gardens, here are four ideas to help you turn your backyard into an outdoor play area for your kids…

1. Add a sandpit

Kids love digging and playing with mud, but if you don’t want them digging up your flower beds, give them a dedicated space of their own.  

You could clear a garden bed or buy a sandbox and fill it with play sand.

Yes, it’s messy, but once you add sand, buckets, spades and a bit of water, kids from one up will be building sandcastles and making mud pies for hours  – what’s not to love?!

2. Plant trees

Trees are a must for any garden – they’re beautiful, they help fight climate change and improve air quality, which benefits your whole family. They also help create shady play spaces and are natural jungle gyms.

Ask your local nursery about quick-growing trees suited to your area that are kid-friendly – not poisonous and good for climbing. If you have a small garden and/or paved areas, you should also ask about trees with non-invasive root systems.

In our small garden, we planted a Brachylaena discolour (also known as a coast silver oak) while I was pregnant and in just over two years, the tree was big enough for my son to start climbing.

3. Log love

If you know someone cutting down a tree, ask them for a few logs.

Let your kids use long logs as natural balancing beams while shorter pieces could be placed in a circle to create a tea party seating area and use slim slices to create a ‘secret garden path’ to a hideout.

4. A green tepee

Build a tepee with long sticks or wooden dowels and plant creepers, like jasmine, around it to create a garden hideout with a difference.

Small can be beautiful

If your garden is petite, don’t let a lack of space put you off.

My garden is only about 23 metres squared and we have a sun pit, three trees (one of which my son climbs), a garden path through a garden bed and an outdoor eating area.

It’s amazing what you can do in a small garden when you use the space wisely, keep moving things around and allow the garden to evolve naturally so that everyone in your family can enjoy the ‘great outdoors’ from home.   

Happy gardening and playing!

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

Monique Warner

Monique is All4Women’s Health Editor. When she’s not editing health articles, Monique compiles our gardening and home décor …

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