Did you read Monica’s post last week about creating a natural backyard play space for pennies? Here’s a timeline for making that space a reality! Just in time for Earth Day…

1. Dream It Up. Brainstorm a wish list of play areas, new plants and garden features, wildlife support, and materials you’ll need to find or buy. (Pinterest is a great place to start!)

2. Pick Your Site. Make sure you know it well – everything from drainage, potential hazards, type of soil, and amount of sunlight it gets – these are all important factors in your planning.

3. Make a Sketch. Block in existing features like large trees, shrubs, logs, rocks, or play equipment that you will incorporate into your play space. (I like to make a close to accurate scale drawing and use black pen to fill in existing features that won’t change.) Now grab a pencil and start sketching in ideas for all of those play areas and plants you want to include. To create cozy nooks, include defined borders that separate each area. Don’t forget seating, feeders, shade, and storage for play things.

4. Game Plan. Once you’re confident with your sketch, get to it! Start scavenging natural materials that you need from neighbors and friends. It can take months to find all of the right pieces for your project, so be patient.

5. Stake Your Claim. When you have all your materials (or at least enough for a Phase 1 of this project), stake out where you want things to go. consider flow of foot traffic and leave ample room for paths.

6. Scrap Your Plan. Be flexible! You may discover that you have over- or under-planned given the amount of ground you have to work with. Maybe your budget won’t cooperate or you can’t find the natural materials you’d hoped to include. Don’t hesitate to nix or adapt your plan.

7. Future Growth. Keep in mind just how big your kids, not to mention shrubs, will get. Consider changeable features of the play areas so that you can change them out as your family’s interests change.

8. Dig It. Motivate a crew of weekend warriors to help you put the plan in motion. (Always check with your utility company before you actually dig.) Think about the size of your project and schedule special work time to install, in phases if needed. Recruit your kids, too!

9. Maintain It. Every climate is different and so will be the “wear and tear” on natural materials and tools. Get kids into the habit of stowing tools and susceptible loose parts after use. Do regular checks of the area for safety hazards.

10. Dream It Up. Engage in imaginative play with your tot. Dream some magic dreams together and let her lead you on an adventure in this amazing play space. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get some more ideas…

Resources: Monica didn’t dream up all these ideas on my own! She relied on websites and blogs from other nature-lovin’ families and educators the world over. Take inspiration from your favorite ideas and make them your own. Local thrift shops, junk yards, and even landscaping crews on the street may all have something incredible (and cheap!) to enhance your natural backyard play space.