Inspiration Station: Natural Play Areas

When I was hired as Coordinator of Education and Outreach at TILT last year, it was only supposed to be a long-seasonal gig – focused mainly on programming treks and minimal marketing. Once they realized I could do five million other things (graphic design, serious marketing/pr and, most importantly, grant writing), they made me a full-time employee. Besides the fact that this meant I could finally have insurance again for the first time in years, I enjoyed being able to flex my graphic design skills on a regular basis, and learn the new skill of grant writing!

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but writing for grants is a whole different ball game. And since the usual, “sure-thing” agencies and foundations that TILT received grants from where already spoken for, I turned to corporate sponsorship as a means to more funding. In the past 6 months, I’ve had some hits and some misses, but the newest one I secured was not money at all, but a brand spankin’ new Mantis tiller for TILT’s Community Garden at Zenda Farm Preserve! The Zenda garden is one of the few community gardens in the area, and we have our first meeting of the season scheduled for this week. I was planning on attending the meeting anyway, but now I’ll be going to discuss this new “toy” and what winning it means for our garden plan this year.

Upon winning a grant, you are required to submit a “grant report,” at a set time after receiving the check/item – and that report needs to include work in-progress/completed based on the criteria of the grant. In the case of the Mantis tiller, I need to show accomplishments from our first year of incorporating a “Children’s Learning Garden” into our larger, existing garden space. This shouldn’t be hard for the Zenda Gardeners, since many of them bring/involve their children in garden duties. My idea (although I’m open for suggestions) is to make one corner (of the 8,000 sq ft space) into the Children’s Garden, with colorful signage, a “three sisters” spiral, “pizza garden” and maybe some plants appropriate for natural dyeing. Outside the garden space, but still within view, I would like to start construction of a natural play area for the kids who want to run around while mom/dad/grandparent is still gardening.

While I had briefly researched natural play areas when submitting the final project for my first Permaculture Design Certificate, this was a great excuse to troll around online a little looking for inspiration:

Robin Hood's HideoutRobin Hood’s Hideout via


Via Home from Home Childminding

Via Stokes Nature Center

Natural Play
Via Milton Keynes Partnership



Via Earthplay

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Via Kids Gardening

Harrison Hills Color

Nature Explore Classroom via Friends of Harrison Hills

And some shots I took a couple years ago when Butch and I visited the Wild Center in Tupper Lake:

Shouldn’t be too hard to create! Butch and I actually have some cut stumps, and there’s plenty of natural materials around Zenda…not to mention all the materials available from TILT’s other preserves – it really doesn’t take much for kids to play outside. I’m really looking forward to this project, and hope that the gardeners are as excited as I am! I’m also planning on getting lots o’ photos this summer of kids enjoying the new section of the garden & natural play area, and will be incorporating both into my TILTKids Camp, scheduled for end of July. It’s all happening!

11 responses to “Inspiration Station: Natural Play Areas

    • Thanks! The gardeners at the first Zenda meeting were very enthusiastic as well, as many of them have children/grandchildren that enjoy coming to the garden. So now, to DO it…

  1. Pingback: Community is Just Another Word for Us – janetkwest·

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