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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Natural Playscapes: Rock Hopper Garden

Last summer we visited the amazing Hamilton Children’s Garden. The garden is filled with playful and enticing elements throughout, with plenty of creatively designed natural playscapes and gardens perfect for spontaneous, unstrunctured play and discovery—the best kind!

One feature my son particularly loved was the “Rock Hopper Garden,” large boulders spaced just far enough for children to jump from one to another, landscaped with native, “fall” friendly plants.

Our backyard was a fairly blank canvas in need of some play-friendly and exciting space for my son to enjoy. We LOVE natural playscape designs and the rock-hopper garden was a great opportunity to create a natural area where he could have a little adventurous fun. So with some leftover large rocks in our yard (not quite the boulders at the Hamilton Children’s Garden, but worked just the same), we set out to create this nature-inspired playscape for our 5-year old.

We found this to be an easy concept to put in place, the hard part of course was rolling/moving/carrying the very heavy rocks into place. Aside from positioning the rocks and getting the rocks to place, little ones can be a great help—my son helped with ideas on placement, digging, filling and of course stamping the rocks and soil down.

As more plants get added, they will soon fill the spaces between the rocks, adding a little more to the challenge. Meanwhile, my son is happily hopping his way around an outdoor play area he helped build!

We’d love to hear what natural playscape designs you’ve added to your yard (or plan/wish to add!). Once you get the rocks, this is an easy one to put in place. If you’d like to add this element to your backyard, here are a few tips that might help :)

  • Make sure you have help moving the rocks (no sense in throwing your back out). I was able to roll a few, but my hubby helped with the rest! (Depends on what rock you have access to.)
  • I recommend digging out a shallow hole to accommodate the pointier side of the rock, backfill with the soil and stamp down. This will allow it to sit nice and stable.
  • Let your youngest test the first two rocks (for spacing) before you place all of your rocks. You don’t want them to be too far apart, but not too close either—create a little challenge that will grow with them for one or two years at least!
  • If you decide to combine with a garden (and why not?!), make sure the plants you choose are child-friendly, no poisonous plants or spines/thorns!
Let us know about your natural playscape, share your ideas and pictures!