I took advantage of an unscheduled Saturday to bring some stuff up from the basement and scavenge around outside for things that I think might be useful in Woodland Park's all-hands-on-deck playground re-design undertaking. While dropping things off, I prepared for the next stage of the great Little World experiment. Initially conceived as a fairy garden outdoor play station, I've decided to try calling it Little World instead.
Ultimately, the idea is to have Little World adjacent to, or the location for, daily outdoor art projects, but first I really want to understand how the children will play with Little World itself.
A few years back, one of the huge hemlocks in my yard snapped off in a windstorm, luckily missing our neighbor's house, although it did a number on their children's play structure. While the arborists were there dealing with the fallen tree, they recommended we remove a second huge hemlock as well as a large cyprus. (Luckily, we still have 3 giant cedars, one more hemlock and some other kind of massive tree that different people call different things.) I saved a couple dozen rounds and a few short logs from the chipper, which I've lately been relocating to the school. It was upon these that Annabelle relocated Little World last Wednesday in the pouring rain:
On Thursday, we learned that this sort of outdoor fine motor/artistic play developed better when given it's own distinct area in which to flourish. Last week we improvised with 1-foot high garden fencing to define the area, but today I finished encircling the area with hemlock rounds:
The red smudge to the left is our row boat. The white "tower" to the right is the multi-level former "fairy apartment building" (diaper changing table) which I'm now trying out for Little World storage. Those curlycue items against the wall are some old Ikea curtain rods that I used for years as garden stakes. I'd guess there's enough room here for 4-5 kids to play comfortably.
Those dried flowers in the foreground are the result of some better-late-than-never deadheading I did yesterday morning. I imagine this kind of material should be plentiful from our community of 40+ families, most of whom have home gardens.
I set up this little tableau for a little Monday morning inspiration:
That's a dish of beach glass. The dish is also made of glass. I'm intentionally including some more fragile objects. I'm sure they will eventually get broken, but I'm hoping that the presence of these kinds of objects will encourage more careful play than we usually associate with outdoors. I want the children to slow down when they come to Little World and concentrate on smaller things.
There is a terrific business not far from the school called Bedrock Industries that recycles mostly glass, but also stone, into decorative materials for use in home and garden. They sell tumbled glass (beach glass) by the pound, pre-sorted by color or color theme. Here you see, we have the blue, green and white combination called "Sea Mix."
My daughter picked this out for her garden when she was younger:
She's been neglected outdoors for the past several years, so I thought I'd give her a new lease on life at the preschool. I also like that she hearkens back to the original fairy garden concept.
We're going to want more rocks than this, but this is what I gathered in my yard this morning:
Those terra cotta shoes peeking out from under the boat were originally intended to rest under a pot to hold it off the ground for better drainage, but I never had more than two, which doesn't serve for the purpose.
I'd previously brought in a couple well-worn, child-sized whicker chairs a couple weeks ago and the seat gave way on one of them, so we put a pot in it:
That troll peeking out from the weeds is one of the three I picked up at Archie McPhee yesterday, along with a few small fairy figurines:
(Sorry for the blurry pic, but you get the idea)
In the former fairy-apartment-building-turned-Little-World-storage, I've collected a stash of building materials:
Those rectangles of thin plywood mixed in with the corks, twigs, and pumpkin stems were donated to us in large quantities by a family that had just completed some kind of remodeling project. We have many hundred of them.
I've also supplied shards of broken pots:
I don't think they're sharp enough to cut anyone, but they are sharp enough to, again, slow a child down a bit. You wouldn't want to just go shoving your hand into this.
And, of course, I've included a nice pile of natural materials, like bark, lichen, leaves and moss:
I plan to be hovering over Little World next week, observing the play and eavesdropping. I can't wait to see what they do with this. Is it art? Is it dramatic play? Is it construction? Who cares, it's a new way for us to play outdoors and it looks like fun!
(Note: Woodland Park parent Jen Widrig has a nice post up on her blog about cooperative preschool from a mom's perspective. I'm sure she'd be happy to have you drop by.)