The Nature Explore Classroom at
Amy & Kids Co. Family Child Care
Playing outside with my brothers is one of my fondest childhood memories. We had a wonderful backyard with beautiful plants, garden, sand box, and plenty of room.
We spent hours digging in the dirt, climbing trees, making bedsheet tents, eating backyard picnics and having water fights. We never ran out of things to do! When it was time to set up the child care play yard I wanted to replicate the freedom, exploration, and fun that I enjoyed as a child. I didn’t have a plan for the space so my husband and I started with the basics: garden, sandbox, slides, and trikes. Over the years we added a playhouse, outdoor easel, reading tent, mud kitchen, and other items as they caught our interest. I liked the space but felt that something was missing.
The Nature Explore certification process helped me look at my outdoor space with fresh eyes. I reflected on my goals for the space and the children, observed the children to see what their interests and needs were, reviewed my “outdoor environment ideas,” and studied the Nature Explore materials. Based on all of this I created a plan to enhance our existing activity areas, add new ones, and create additional storage.
During the observation, I noticed a lot of congestion in the middle of the yard where the patio, garden, and sandbox are. The patio was also used for storage to protect the lawn. Grass is much nicer to run barefoot on than dirt, so I wanted a solution that wouldn’t kill any grass. One day I realized that some areas of the yard already had mulch and would work perfectly for new activity areas. The tree blocks, long branches, and other large building materials were moved from the patio to a flower bed in the back of the yard. This area has plenty of room for
the children to explore and work with large, heavy, and messy materials.
Our Larch tree provided a new place to experience music. The instruments found a home under its “weeping” branches and enlarging the mulch around its trunk created room for a brand new music wall. The result is a cozy nook where the children love to explore sound. The building bench is another new feature that’s been a huge hit with the children. The child-size workbench is a perfect place for building with natural items and wooden blocks. Making towers and knocking them into the grass has quickly become a favorite activity.
The children have been excited by the changes we’ve made so far. I’m excited too, but we’re not done yet! Future plans include enclosed instrument storage, a wooden art table to replace the plastic one, and a cast iron pump for our water area. Nature Explore certification takes time and effort, but is well worth it! I’ve enjoyed creating a magical outdoor space for the children, and am thankful for their ideas, their families’ support, and especially for my husband who always turns my crazy ideas into reality.
1013 W. Oklahoma Street
Appleton, WI 54914