If you’ve ever fallen into the black hole of Pinterest, you’ve certainly seen some cute and fun ideas for gardening with kids. Which is great because, in my opinion, gardens that are built for and with children shouldn’t be so precious that kids feel unwelcome. And if you find respite and peace by working in and around your garden, why not make the garden a welcome and inviting playscape for your kids?
Just Add Dinosaurs
The simple addition of dinosaurs can turn any ‘hands-off’ garden into a joyful space for creative play while redirecting the kid play to an area of the yard where you don’t mind your soil being dug up a bit.
There are few reasons why dinosaur gardens are so successful: they’re simple to build, the play materials can be left out in all seasons, and they engage otherwise reluctant kids in garden play. With those objectives in mind, let’s get started!
How To Build A Dinosaur Garden
Quite simply, a dinosaur garden can just about any patch of garden you are happy to have your kids play in. Some plants are more conducive to dinosaur play, simply because they can withstand a little jostling and have hardy stems and root systems. Plants that meet this criteria and also have a reasonably prehistoric look to them include:
kale (especially the darkbor variety)
and succulents like hens and chicks.
Got Weeds? Don’t Worry!
An added benefit of dinosaur gardens is they make an awesome excuse for a weedy nightmare you don’t want to deal with. Got a horsetail problem in your garden? Add some dinosaurs and call it a play garden! If you want to enhance the fun with some educational factoids, you can research more about horsetail and how it is the only surviving genus from the Equisetum class of plants, one of the oldest and now extant genera of land plants. Talk about pre-historic!
Dinosaur Play Gardens
The best thing about dinosaur play gardens is that the play can carry on into all seasons. Our dinosaurs make for enjoyable garden play in all seasons and I especially like that I can leave them out in the garden rain or shine or snowy weather. This dragon was a good friend by melting the snow for his dino friends…
Your dinosaur garden can serve as inspiration for other garden play as well. Our dinosaurs often find themselves mingling with the dragons, gnomes and fairies. It’s all good, and eventually they make their way back to their ‘home’ garden. Sometimes dino habitats are built, dino trails are constructed and, of course, cities are built from loose parts to be demolished by rogue dinosaurs. You can also go for a nature walk and find a large stone you like the look of that can be painted as a volcano for enhanced dinosaur garden play.
Benefits of Unstructured, Outdoor Play
The benefits of unstructured, outdoor play are well established. You can read my related posts on the benefits of outdoor play here, here and here. When speaking with parents and teachers about the importance of nature play in healthy child development I frequently remind them they don’t need a particular skill set or new idea, simply take what you are already doing and try it outside!
More Garden Play Ideas
Dinosaur gardens need not be fancy or expensive. They make a nice addition to any playful home or school garden. If you are looking for more ideas on how to build up your outdoor play space for hours of imaginative play, I encourage you to read these posts as well:
And don’t forget to join me on Pinterest if you want even more playful ideas for ways to engage children in learning and wonder in the garden: