Dreaming of warmer weather – some outdoor play projects

So, spring appears to have taken a bit of an extended holiday from the UK this year. Just as I was getting all excited about lengthening days and a goodbye to the cold, we have been plunged back into mid winter – and I keep hearing that this icy spell will stay with us until the end of April. What?! We are nearing six months’ worth of dark and cold days now and I for one am completely, stamp my feet fed up of it. And that’s before I factor in the added challenge of keeping a toddler entertained when it is too wet, muddy, icy or all of the above to be outdoors.

To cheer myself up, I have been plotting how to make the most of our outside space when spring does finally make an appearance. I love our garden; it’s not huge by any means but it is a lovely sunny spot and there is plenty of room for ToddlerGirl to play.

When we first moved in, we made a few tweaks to open the space up but since having ToddlerGirl it has been a tad neglected. I have been having lots of fun planning improvements and how we can make it somewhere we all enjoy. My garden project list isn’t huge; I am all about making our garden look good but keeping it low maintenance because, no matter how much I think I’d love to be out there pottering around, the truth is that I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment. I don’t want it to be another chore! So, we’ll be doing some general planting and I’d love to try my hand at growing some herbs and maybe a couple of easy veggies, something I’ve been thinking about for ages but have never got round to. I love the idea of cooking with home-grown ingredients but don’t want to be too ambitious to start with! I think a herb planter with gorgeously scented plants such as mint and thyme could be a good growing project to share with ToddlerGirl as well.

Then for the fun bit… I’ve probably been spending much more time dreaming about how we can use the garden as a great outdoor play space for ToddlerGirl. A few simple ideas include:

1. Install a sandpit!
This is definitely number one on the list. We have visited a few parks lately with sandpits and ToddlerGirl has been in digging heaven. I can imagine that this could be a really great activity to occupy her over the summer. In fact, I am having visions of basking outside in the sunshine with a cool drink and a book while she happily occupies herself in the sandpit… (Don’t tell me if that’s completely unrealistic!)

2. Make use of our newly extended back porch area for all sorts of messy play activities with ToddlerGirl.
I’m really excited about this. I love our new space, which is already proving a hit with Toddler Girl. We have a gate at the top of the steps so I can keep her contained on the porch if I’m not able to supervise her in the garden. Some ideas I’ve got include setting up a play kitchen (I’ve seen some brilliant upcycled ones on Pinterest like the one below that have fired my imagination!) and getting hold of a large box or tray to provide the setting for some sensory and messy tubs. I’ve steered clear of anything too messy in the house to date so can’t wait for the warmer weather to take this outside.

3. Create a mud/play garden
When she is a bit bigger, I’d like to give over a patch for ToddlerGirl to garden. For this year, though, I am planning a lovely wooden planter for her. This will be purely for messy, muddy play – digging, watering, mud pie making – but we may find one or two small plants to grow in there for her.

4. Build a den/fort
OK, make that many dens and many forts! I was a serious den-maker as a child and had hours of fun outdoors with my brother and our friends, so this is something I will be encouraging ToddlerGirl to do throughout her childhood, starting this summer :)

I really am keeping everything crossed for some good weather this summer as I basically intend to spend a lot of time in the garden with ToddlerGirl. As always, Pinterest is providing lots of inspiration and there are a few other things I’m thinking of trying out at some point. Here are some favourites:

This outdoor play space is pretty special but would require a bit more room than we have. However, there are elements that could be incorporated even into smaller gardens. I love the balance beam and the banging wall in particular!

Water play provides endless fun, especially on a hot summer’s day. There are a few great ideas out there but two I’ve pinned to try out are this homemade water wall and a sweet outdoors ‘sink’ from an old repurposed table.

The Imagination Tree always has some wonderful ideas and this play garden is no different; simple but with some lovely elements for little ones.

I absolutely love love love the four ‘gardens’ this blogger and her partner have created for their children, particularly their secret ‘dragonfly’ garden and also the great use of space with their laneway garden.

Oh, and this is one for the dream house – how much fun would this be as a child?!

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