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September 15, 2022

Montessori Home: Natural Playscape Phase 1

Over the last couple of years I’ve become quiet obsessed with natural playscapes and playgrounds. A natural playscape is a play area that seeks to use elements of the natural world to invite play for the child. Instead of having a large swing set to climb, use a large tree limb or rock formation, for example. A slide might be added to a naturally occurring hill. And water is captured and reused for play.

We are fortunate to have several amazing natural playgrounds close to our home, but as I’ve been thinking about my own yard over the last few summers, I wanted to make sure we were moving in that direction for my children. So, this summer we started phase one for a natural playscape in a previously unused portion of our yard. We have been getting the inspiration from this book for some of the play features and how to get them done.

Creating a Natural Playscape in our Montessori Home

This is a project that we have been working on for a couple of years now, and will continue to add to over time. Landscape work takes time and can be expensive so we’ve been doing it in phases. The first year was all about clearing out the space - cutting dead trees, and brush. Then, removing non-native, overgrown, and sometimes invasive plants. We also added a more permanent child-friendly fence and gate to our vegetable garden. 


Then, this year we started making fun changes! This spring, we added a children’s garden. We used a thick wooden border so that it could double as a balance beam. The plants themselves were a mixture of some plants that were already there and a pollinator seed mix from our local garden center. Nora added some fairy garden houses and accessories that she got for her birthday.

Next, we added some large boulders (Chilton Limestone) and mulch to explore. These can be used as tables, climbing obstacles, play kitchens, or whatever the children dream up. We picked sort of random size and arrangement. These were moved in by our landscaper then slightly buried for added stability. 

{Trucks in winter vs. trucks in summer, similar spot in yard}

Finally, we added a "river" of pea gravel and small stones. This was done by digging a small sloping trench into the ground and filling it with rock. We lined with larger river rock stones to try and keep the stone and mulch a bit more separated. It's completely a losing battle. Morgan and I have just resigned to let it be what it is, and if they get mixed a bit, that's ok. It's meant for play, fun, and exploration - not rigid rules or beautiful pictures. 

What's Next for Our Playscape?

Like I said, big landscaping work isn't a quick or overnight process. So we will plan to add to and expand our playscape in the years to come. Next year, I want to focus on planting a variety of fun native plants that engage the children's senses, we want to add a chalkboard, water feature, and better storage for loose parts. I would also love to add a place to read or chill (for myself or a child) and generally just enjoy the space together. 

And, being a Montessori family, the exact direct of the playscape will follow the needs and interests of our children that are using the space! 

Do you have a natural playscape? What do we need to add?! Tell me in the comments.

Natural playscape ideas for home. Here's how we incorporate nature play in our urban yard in our Montessori home including climbing rocks and river.


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