I happened to have a TON of climbing vine (clematis) in my side yard that seems to run rampant every year, despite trying to kill it over and over. For this project, I was thankful to still have some around. If you don’t have any vine available, you could also use other things instead, like an old blanket from your closet, a sheet, grapevine, swinging vine from your walk in the woods, or even extra twine.
Last week, while I was browsing Pinterest, and came across many ideas on “natural play places” for children. I was quite enthralled. I was by no means a tomboy child, but I absolutely l-o-v-e-d being outside, playing in creek beds and building forts in the woods with my friends. I wanted to bring a touch of that childhood fun to our backyard for Nathan.
With these fabulous ideas in mind, we got started by taking a walk to our nearby wooded park to grab some long branches (about 4-5 feet long each in length). If you have a taller child, you will need to choose taller branches. On our way home, this is what our stroller looked like:
Don’t worry….I only got a few weird looks on my way home : )! Next time I will bring my car by the park for easier loading and carrying : )!
All you need for this project is some sticks/branches, twine, scissors, and vine (or blanket).
I started by leaning my branches together just like a tee pee:
Then, I took the twine roll and wrapped it in and around all the sticks. No knots made really, just that in and around motion. I only secured it in a knot at the end. Don’t have any twine? Why not use scraps of old yarn, fabric scraps tied together, clothesline, or rope!
For a little lasting security, I used my plant spade to dig into the ground at the base of every large stick, about 1″ deep, kind of “planting” the stick in the ground. This would assure that Nathan could go into his fort and not knock it over. Also, the fort will be able to stand up against the weather and elements for a much longer time period.
I grabbed a section of vine, started at the top, and started weaving it in and out of each branch. To keep it secured well, you’ll need to do a lot of tucking of each vine around each other, and weave in and out of each branch as much as possible. It took me about an hour to wind the whole fort in vines, taking quite a lot of vines. While I love the green aesthetic of the vining leaves, I know that they will not keep their true color long, separated from the vine. (**What a true spiritual principle here I might add: We are not much use when separated from the True Vine..John 15:1-8) The dried vines will still continue to reinforce the fort structurally, in this case.
I then brought over some cut logs from a neighbor’s yard (discarded), and added them as benches for Nathan to sit on. A few days later, he got to check it out for the first time:
I think he likes it. And we created it all for free (well, except the twine for $3). I am excited to keep adding to this little area of our yard, and I think N will appreciate it more and more each year that he grows. Perhaps next, I’ll add a “mud pie” kitchen, some rocks & sand, a water feature, and some leafy garden stepping stones, where we can create more outdoor art together.
I hope I’ve inspired you to create you own natural play area for your children. They will love it for years, and they will get to explore skills of critical thinking, building, engineering through assembly & structural integrity, and design…just to name a few. If your children are older, I am sure that they will enjoy building these types of structures over and over again! What will you be building together today?
Please be sure to let me know if you build a fort, or natural play area, of your own! I would LOVE to see it! Have a blessed day!