Friday, 12 September 2014

Our No-Garden Play Space

I love our home, but one of the things I wish for is a garden for Ladybug Girl to play in.  I had to find some simple ways to carve out some nature space for play -- even with no garden!
I wasn't (am not) some Earth Mama or anything, but something told me that nature play was important for bringing up my child.  I myself didn't have nature spaces in my childhood but my papa was a big nature buff : he would go camping on the weekends and come home smelling like dirt and force us to hug him.  Too bad I only started longing for nature once I started working, chained to a grey office everyday.

This long, narrow outside corridor was the only green space in our home when we moved in:
Ladybug Girl was two years old here

Here's what it looks like nowadays:

There's still a roof overhead so it's not an area that can be a full grassy garden.  So we just put down some nice stone on the wall, deck flooring from Home Depot, and some shelving for plants and outdoor play materials that are easily accessible for a little kid's height.  

The faithful Kamias Tree is as old as my husband.  It's such a trooper.
And always a fun little harvest every few months:

Here are some of our usual materials kept outside:

A tray of sand (with or without this little magnet game)
A science playset of bottles and droppers and coloured liquid.
This was expired Listerine for Kids which is now gone.
Food colouring - primary colours only (for colour mixing).
The spray bottles have food colouring diluted with water.
Colored sand from National Bookstore in that kitchen organiser.  See here why.
The heart shape you see in the picture above is actually a chalkboard:
From Two Tots around four years ago - it's held up nicely.  During hosting duties we flip it and it has the sign for the guest bathroom which is, strangely, through that door.

Her wheelbarrow holds the plants I'm propagating for use around the house.
She helped me cut the shoots and pot a few of them.  But mostly these are for her watering.

It's been nice to have an outdoor space where we can just get messy:

A nice spot for her toddler pool

Ladybug Girl and her cousin paints some bubble wrap on a playdate a few years ago

I always put buckets of water out so they can wash by themselves:

We've made a handful of volcanoes out here:

This one was coloured vinegar poured into a baking-soda-filled volcano shape made from clay and a glass jar.

Lately I keep a tray full of glass bottles I've collected over time - toddlers and preschoolers mix and make coloured potions out here.  Hasn't gotten old in four years:


When the play is too messy, we hose them off right there (true story).  Bath time is fun outside:

The other end of this corridor is the laundry area which somehow gets used for play too:

But this little space wouldn't be complete without bringing in some nature play:

I let her replant these aloe vera stems and guess what, they grew!!
Messy gardening fun

At some point we successfully grew a tomato plant from a seedling bought at a supermarket:
After this we got an infestation of white flies pests and the plant died.  Boo.
She was super proud though, and we cooked that little tomato!

Sometimes we're lucky enough to find some garden wildlife like beetles, centipedes and this little snail here.  But I would really love some caterpillars and earth worms someday.

She touches all of them - I'm determined not to repeat my own bug fear in my daughter!

If you've noticed, our table keeps changing through the last four years.  Our latest one is just the old green one revived with a new table top and painted white.  I had a hole made in the center which fits an Ikea Trofast drawer like this:

It can hold water play, garden messes, the glass jars for potions, and so on.

Her latest gardening project: a store-bought terrarium

Lately I've been growing something fun in that table:

A makahiya plant!
Can you believe they sell seeds of this as an "alien plant" in Hobbes and Landes for 600 pesos?!

This was growing in her Lola's garden in Tagaytay:
Magical at two years old here, and even today
Look how much it's grown!  They're taking over the plants I'm propagating!

 Our greenery is still pretty limited because I've killed 80% of all the plants I bring home from the store.  Any suggestions to bring some plant varieties for caterpillars and earthworms?  I'd love to hear it.

So that's how we've managed to fit in some nature and a messy play area outdoors.  I love squeezing play spaces in my home wherever I can!  A little space can be magical when you make room for play.

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  See our other play spaces in the gallery on the right side of the blog or click over to here.   


  1. Our weather is finally cooling off and this post makes me excited to take it out on the porch and let the kids get messy!

    1. Thank you for wandering over, Whitney! Where I live, "porches" hardly exist so I am soo envious of yours!

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  3. Calachuchi plants or those with small purple/white flowers are caterpillar magnets. I almost emailed you to ask if you wanted to adopt one of the caterpillars that we recently got. They were already grown, though, and went into hiding a few days after we got them.


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