Fourteen years ago when I first opened my childcare home this was what the backyard play area looked like;
There was also a ‘deck’ area – old pallets covered in plywood – that is not visible in the above photo. You may also notice the lack of soft surface under the play structure but the cribbing is there because adding pea gravel under the play structure was something I had to do for licensing.
Back then my view of outdoor play was essentially unstructured, high energy, physical activity. My own children had played here – two of them are in this picture. They usually played outside by themselves for hours. I rarely ventured out with them until ‘supervised outdoor play’ became part of my childcare program. Then I regularly watched the children play – and I was afraid.
Seven years ago my yard looked like this;
There was a large deck area with riding toys and space to play organized games. There were no toys in the gravel area – just the climbers. After all, someone might trip over a toy if it was buried in the gravel. It was here in this playground that we had the only injury that required medical attention. I pondered over the question on the incident report “Was there anything you could have done to prevent this injury?” I had been three feet from the child that fell from a two foot high platform onto twelve inches of pea gravel. Maybe I shouldn’t let them play outside.
Actually, the children probably wouldn’t have argued if I had decided to ban outdoor play from the program. They didn’t like to play out here for long. Often it took only about 15 minutes before someone asked if it was time to go inside yet. I took a long look at the outdoor play space and started to see everything that was ‘missing’. All the things they liked to do inside that they couldn’t do outside – and I’m not talking about TV and video games.
This is my yard today;
Places to climb and crawl;
Places to balance, jump and explore;
Places for science experiments and imagination;
Places for art, music, and sharing stories with friends;
And so much more. It is a lot like indoors – only better. Now we can’t wait to go outside.