I wish I had a playground like that

I wish I had a playground like that

Have you ever found yourself saying “I wish I had a playground like that?”

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

When I first started my preschool, I spent some serious time searching for play ground equipment. I really wanted to have a cool play set that the children could play on. There is so much out there but the things I really loved were sooooo expensive!

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And so, I have had to do with what I have but over time, I began to realize that not being able to afford the beautiful playground equipment I had once dreamed about may have actually been the best thing ever…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Had I begged and pleaded my husband to let me spend our life savings on a super cool climber (jungle gym), then I wouldn’t have ever let my students climb on our rocks. Oh no, I would have definitely have stayed with the mindset that the rocks were too hard, too dangerous, too big for the children to manage…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And had I purchased one of those super cool curly slides with a tunnel on top, I wouldn’t have ever considered taking my students down the big, sometimes slippery, leaf covered hill that we found way back in the woods. No sir, not me…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And there is no way on earth would I have considered letting the children climb on the logs that are out everywhere in our back yard. I am not being precocious here. I am totally serious. I would have thought the logs would be too risky to even consider such an idea…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And I most likely would haven’t had a reason to take walks in the woods because I suspect I would have thought the playground equipment is a much better idea. You see, I am not naturally an outdoorsy type so I wouldn’t have even thought about making our woods a priority for the children’s experience at my preschool…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

But since I couldn’t afford pretty much any kind of playground equipment, I have had to make the most of what I have. Not having a playground like the one at the park has taught me to think outside of the box and use what I do have more creatively…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me how to try out other interesting ideas…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me to seek out materials for free that I can use instead…

Not having a playground like that

Not having a playground like that has taught me to take the tables and other things that I do have outside…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me, my co-teachers and my students to appreciate nature and all those little critters we find all over the place…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me all the many ways that young children like to play and how resourceful they can be…

Not having a playground like that

Not having a playground like that has shown me the different styles of play my students enjoy such as running as fast as you can…

Not having a playground like that

Or playing group games together…

Not having a playground like that

Or relaxing for a few minutes…

Not having a playground like that

Or using their imagination to stir up a warm fire for toasting leaf marshmallows.

Not having a playground like that

If I had a playground like that, I most likely would not want the children to play on it in the snow. It would be easier to keep them inside and avoid the struggle…

Not having a playground like that

And because the rain makes a slide or swings or jungle gym slippery when wet, I wouldn’t want to deal with that hassle either…

Not having a playground like that

Nope, if I had a playground like that I would be an entirely different teacher than I am today. I wouldn’t know the difference as I wouldn’t have been faced with the challenges of what to do with the children instead…

Not having a playground like that

On occasion, I still look at different playground equipment and admire them but I no longer wish I had a playground like that…

Not having a playground like that

I am a different teacher now than I was all those years ago. I see outdoor play from a whole new perspective and I am thankful for what I do have….

Not having a playground like that

And I am thankful for what not having a playground like that has taught me about myself, my students, and exploring nature.

Not having a playground like that

My students seem happy, my staff seems happy, and so am I.

Not having a playground like that

Links to Grow On

For ideas and beautiful natural materials for the outdoors, check out Nature Explore!

Five Tips for Taking Preschool Journals Outdoors! by Teach Preschool

Nature Shadow Boxes by Teach Preschool

A Collection of Inspiring Outdoor Play Scapes by Teach Preschool

24 Comments

  • Norah Colvin Posted April 7, 2016 7:30 am

    This is a wonderful post. I love the way you have compared your use of nature with the limitations that a constructed playground would have imposed upon your teaching style, children’s experiences and learning. The photos enhance the article, and show others how easy it is to incorporate nature into the children’s lives. I’m sure David Orr would approve.

  • Margaret@GrowingPlay Posted April 7, 2016 7:54 am

    YES! YES! YES! I agree 100%. The children in your care are so much better off with open exploration than climbing on a jungle gym. Well written. Thank you!

  • Cynthia Posted April 7, 2016 8:58 am

    Such a wonderful and refreshing point of view!! Thank you so much for showing me what and why you’re thankful for what you do have!!!

  • Gabrielle Fuehrer Posted April 7, 2016 9:35 am

    As I remember when I was little….all we had was Mother Nature and the joy of freedom to explore wherever and whenever we wanted. I can’t imagine giving up those butterfly chasing, water board surfing, taking hikes through thick brambles in the forest days for a jungle gym. This is what learning and playing is all about!

  • Vickie Posted April 7, 2016 10:50 am

    You so inspire me. I do not have a wonderful wood like you do, but I also use what I have .
    I have a small backyard and try to make the most of it. I am an in home childcare provider and watch ages 0 to 6. It can be challenging at times to have so many different ages, but I love caring, teaching and inspiring the lives of these wonderful children.
    I have used many of your ideas and always look forward to your posts.
    Thank you
    Vickie

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 7, 2016 11:25 am

    I love that you too are using what you have! Every environment has potential – we just have to look for it! It sounds to me like you are making the most of what you have too. I just love it!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 7, 2016 11:25 am

    I often think back to how much time we spent outside when I was a kid. I don’t even remember coming inside for lunch! Ha!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 7, 2016 11:26 am

    Thank You for your kind comment Cynthia:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 7, 2016 11:26 am

    Every year I learn something new and become more committed to my “unplayground” 🙂 LOL!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 7, 2016 11:28 am

    I went back through our photos from so far this year and we have so many outdoor photos. The photos inspired me to write about what I have been learning and I just love them all too:)

  • Claire Posted April 7, 2016 4:09 pm

    This looks like so much fun and I know my son would love that. When it rains when he’s at school the children are not allowed outside to play on their fancy pirate ship climbing frame with slide, or to go walk along the wooden beams so they have to stay in and watch films when all they really want to do is to run around

  • Tom Posted April 7, 2016 9:09 pm

    Reading over your post, I was not sure when you meant to write playground and when you meant play ground. I thought the latter was a nice play on the word. Your point was well made, though, that the actual ground the children play on fosters an array of play much richer than any playground.

  • Lucille Posted April 8, 2016 6:04 am

    I absolutely love this post! I found my best moments are when we are exploring the outdoors. Even the children who don’t like my sensory bins indoors are making mud cakes and having leaf tea outside! So much learning goes on outdoors and most children do not get enough of it!
    I also want to thank you for all your wonderful and inspiring ideas. I am a new older Pre-K teacher. At first I was overwhelmed by all the websites and the different approaches, then I came upon yours. I love how you allow the children to discover, experiment and explore on their own which allows so much learning to happen. I incorporate so many activities from your website.into my classroom. Your website is my go to. Thank you for sharing and those children in your school are very lucky!

  • Kay Swanson Posted April 8, 2016 2:06 pm

    This is a fabulous article and congrats on the creative outdoor play space. I think this is way better than any piece of commercial equipment and as we are all seeing ~ children do not have enough outdoor nature play! This warms my heart to see such simple ideas turned into a wealth of exciting, independent play. Good for you ~ I plan to steal some of you ideas to add to our play space =)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 9, 2016 1:25 am

    And missing out on all that great weather! Oh No!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 9, 2016 1:26 am

    Thank you so much for your kind comment! Folks like you keep me inspired:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 9, 2016 1:26 am

    I can’t decide if you are picking on me or giving me a compliment! LOL!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 9, 2016 1:27 am

    I hope you find ideas that do inspire you. I find ideas too from across the web of outdoor play folks. I am constantly amazed!

  • Tom Posted April 9, 2016 3:35 pm

    Did you do some editing? I actually liked the idea of play ground instead of playground. I have been following you too long and appreciate your ideas too much to pick on you.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 10, 2016 12:51 pm

    Yes, I did the editing! Ha! I was totally feeling self-conscience that I spelled the word two ways all throughout the article. I didn’t even notice!

  • Revathi Posted April 11, 2016 12:59 am

    Love love love the post. Very inspiring and absolutely agree with.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted April 11, 2016 1:54 am

    Thank you:)

  • chelsea Posted April 25, 2016 9:50 am

    So true! To improvise is to learn and grow and that is what makes humans so incredible! Had to laugh at the sponsored ad for playground equipment.

  • Barb Posted May 31, 2016 12:47 pm

    Thank you for this article. I will be sharing it with so many childcare providers – money sometimes get spent on unnecessary “things”
    I have worked in childcare for over 40 years, continue to be amazed at the resourcefulness of children, and their ability to think outside the box without an adult to lead the way.
    I am no longer working in a centre but visit many programs to offer strategies and suggestions to assist teachers provide high quality care.
    One of the best activities I saw was a childcare program next to a stream. The teacher tied a big pot to the fence with heavy duty rope. Water can be retrieved from the stream using the pot and pulling it over the fence.
    Thank you for your commitment in providing a wonderful space for children.

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