IN THE GAR­DEN

Cre­ate a magical won­der­land of your very own, where your tod­dler can ex­plore, imag­ine and ex­per­i­ment

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Outdoor Play -

PLANT A SEN­SORY GAR­DEN

To cre­ate a tod­dler-friendly gar­den, you need to choose ro­bust plants that are safe for hands-on fun. Think about what else a plant can of­fer, too. Herbs such as mint and thyme smell amaz­ing and will with­stand end­less pluck­ing by lit­tle hands, as will shrubs such as laven­der and bud­dleia. Cos­mos is colour­ful and fast-grow­ing, and pick­ing the spent flowers ac­tu­ally en­cour­ages growth. Lamb’s ear has thick grey leaves that feel silky to touch, and greater quak­ing grass rus­tles in the slight­est breeze.

Be­fore you start, visit www.rais­ingchil­dren.net.au/ar­ti­cles/dan­ger­ous_­plants_check­list.html to make sure you’re not about to plant harm­ful va­ri­eties.

GET THE CHALK OUT

A deck can act as the per­fect out­door ta­ble when draw­ing, as long as you don’t mind mess. Or you could make the ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sion to turn your fence into an art sta­tion. Screw a piece of ex­ter­nal ply­wood board firmly to the fence and cover it with two coats of ex­te­rior black­board paint (try White Knight Chalk­board Paint, 500ml, $22.95), us­ing a roller to get a smooth fin­ish. Add a bucket of oversized chalks (we love Cray­ola Wash­able Side­walk Chalk, pack of 12, $6), and let your tod­dler loose to ex­er­cise his imag­i­na­tion. He’ll also de­velop fine mo­tor skills, and hav­ing an oversized canvas on which to cre­ate mas­ter­pieces will in­crease his con­fi­dence in draw­ing.

BUILD A CUBBY

What your lit­tle one re­ally wants is a cubby house that takes a mo­ment to put up and can be moved when he wants, so it’s new, fun and ex­cit­ing ev­ery time – and you can’t get bet­ter than a light­weight tar­pau­lin with eye­lets, a few tent pegs and rope. Get creative by at­tach­ing the top of the tar­pau­lin to a fence, then peg­ging the bot­tom out to make a cosy cubby, sus­pend­ing it above tod­dler head-height to make an airy but out-of-the-sun pic­nic um­brella, or peg­ging it over the wash­ing line to end up with an in­stant tent.

GROW A FAIRY RING

Got daisies in your lawn? Trans­plant them in the shape of a big cir­cle to make a fairy ring for your young­ster to play in. Use a knife to loosen the soil around the daisy, care­fully lift its leaves and roots, cut a slit in the grass to plant it in its new fairy-ring spot and wa­ter well. Daisies are peren­nial, mean­ing they grow year af­ter year, so your fairy ring will last more than one sea­son.

CRE­ATE AN OUT­DOOR KITCHEN

You know how hav­ing a bar­be­cue is more fun than cook­ing in the kitchen? Chances are your tod­dler feels the same way. He may al­ready have a play kitchen in­side, but he’ll pre­fer con­coct­ing meals for you to ‘try’ from an out­door cook sta­tion – and all you’ll need to do is at­tach a cou­ple of wide pieces of wood to a wall to make shelves and paint on a cou­ple of cir­cles to act as hot­plates. Stack with a few old pots, pans and wooden spoons for a kitchen that will keep him en­ter­tained for hours.

Stock­ing up on ‘in­gre­di­ents’ is just as much fun as do­ing the ‘cook­ing’. He might

even come back from a walk with pine cones, bring a bucket of shells from the beach or fill a tub with grass clip­pings af­ter it’s been cut. Peb­bles, leaves, seed heads and soil all make for great ‘cook­ing’ items and, if you’re feel­ing re­ally brave, add a bucket of wa­ter to the mix. Han­dling these dif­fer­ent tex­tures is a sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence that will al­low him to learn about cause and ef­fect as he mixes the con­tents to­gether.

SWAP SAND FOR GRAVEL

If you’ve got a sand­pit ta­ble and your child has passed the stage of putting ev­ery­thing into his mouth, try bag­ging up the sand and tip­ping in fine gravel (check it’s child-safe first). Add toy tip-up trucks and a dig­ger and his build­ing site is com­plete. Al­ter­nate be­tween the sand and gravel ev­ery month, and your tot will use the pit far more fre­quently, as it will make for a whole new sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence. Another op­tion is to fill the sand­pit with wa­ter (for safety, al­ways stay with your child dur­ing wa­ter play) or com­bi­na­tions of sand, gravel and wa­ter.

MAKE A HILL-AND-HOLE

A hill-and-hole takes just an hour and a roll of turf to cre­ate, but you’ll be amazed at how many ways it will in­spire your tod­dler to play – from mas­ter­ing the wob­bly art of walk­ing up and down a hill to rolling balls and cars. To make a hill-and-hole in your lawn, at­tach a short stick and a sharp knife to the op­po­site ends of a half-me­tre length of string. Poke the stick into the ground and, keep­ing the string taut, cut a me­tre-wide cir­cle into the grass. Then make another ad­ja­cent cir­cle. Us­ing a spade, lift out the two cir­cles of turf, keep­ing them aside for now. Re­move the soil from one cir­cle to cre­ate a shal­low pit, heap­ing it up on the other cir­cle to cre­ate a mound. Tread in the soil on both the hill and in the hole to com­press it, then re-lay the turf, us­ing cut­tings from a roll of turf to cover any bare ar­eas. Wa­ter thor­oughly. Don’t walk on it or al­low it to dry out un­til the grass shows healthy growth.

HAN­DLING THESE DIF­FER­ENT TEX­TURES IS A SEN­SORY EX­PE­RI­ENCE.

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