10 steps to building a forest play space your kids will love. 

1. Pick a space that looks inviting. Something that shouts ‘explore me’!

This is our ‘pick’. The big rock, uprooted fallen tree and cave like space, sits behind our outdoor easel.

2. Clear the space as needed. Removing tripping hazards, prickly thorn bushes and sharp rocks will help to encourage play and keep everyone safe.  Be aware of who may already live in that space.  For example, If there was an active birds nest, I wouldn’t touch this space.

3. Invite forest playground expert explorers to check out the area. Watch them investigate the area. What are they drawn to? How do they use the space?

4. (After watching your little experts in the area) fix, change or add, where needed. You don’t want to eliminate all challenges, but there’s nothing wrong with adding a few things here and there to help the kids to enjoy the space.  For example, I added a step stone when I noticed my littlest explorer struggling to climb up in to the ‘entrance’.

5. Define the space. Logs, branches and rocks work well as ‘walls’ and wood chips are excellent for ‘floors’. Old windows and mirrors are fun too.

6. Add multi purpose, open ended materials. Pots, pans and kitchen utensils are great. Bowls, cups, rocks, natural wood blocks, scoops etc.

7. Make it beautiful. You are setting up an ‘invitation to play’ (as you would in the classroom if you’re an educator, Just on a larger scale and likely a little messier) A telephone, a clock, a small table and even a sink -makes the area feel like ‘home’.  I also love to add items that sparkle and shine. Items that look like they aren’t typically meant for play. Special, interesting and unique – just like the little people who will be enjoying them.

8. Keep the area safe. Watch for new hazards as the area changes through the seasons.  Wasp nests, thorn bushes, broken branches etc.

9. Follow your child’s lead. If you created a space to be a ‘house’ and they’re decided it’s a ‘diner’ – go with it! Add a cash register, menus and a take out window. Kids have the greatest ideas and it will be fun to watch the area grow and evolve.

10. Play with them! Get your hands dirty. Eat the mud cakes! As a mother of 5 (ages 13-1) one thing that I know for sure is that time flies and there will be a point (*sniff sniff*) where they won’t ask you to sit and play anymore!  Enjoy these moments!

Have you recently created a forest play space? I’d love to see photos! 🙂 


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