I've almost trained myself to stop referring to our outdoor space as a "playground." The term conjures up a place dedicated exclusively to expressing large motor skills, and "burning off energy."
And we can still do that at Woodland Park, of course, but without the slides, swings and climbers that the term "playground" typically connotes.
What makes our space more than a playground, I think, are the equal accommodations made for dramatic, artistic and fine motor play. That's why we call it the "outdoor classroom."
One of the very simple, inexpensive ways we've done this is the inclusion of lots of these:
They aren't necessarily obvious at first glance, but it you watch the ground, almost everywhere you go you'll spot these florist marbles peeking out from under the wood chips or glinting glassily from under plants. You'll find collections of them in baskets, buckets, or buried in the sand for safekeeping.
They are treasures, jewels, and money. On Tuesday, 2-year-old Lucy, during her first visit to the outdoor classroom, began collecting them, emitting a soft, "Oooo," each time one caught her eye.
These simple buds of glass can be bit players in a game of fairies . . .
. . . or the center piece in an game of counting and sorting.
And, of course, they make wonderful additions to art projects.
At first I expected they would simply "disappear" -- into the ground, into crevices, into pockets -- and that we would need to be constantly re-seeding the turf. And they do disappear, but so far, 6 months into our experiment, we've discovered that they also reappear just when and where we need them.