Monday, October 11, 2010

Answering Questions About Our Backyard

After this weekend's UPAEYC conference with Dan Hodgins, my backyard is starting to become "famous," well, at least locally. What an honor and a surprise! In response to some of the questions and comments, I am going to provide a few more photos to help those of you who are looking to make some changes to your outdoor classrooms.

Our Mudpie Kitchen

Like the other sections of our yard, I did not come up with this idea on my own. I was really inspired for this area by my blogger friend Jenny over at Let the Children Play. She found an array of great mudpie kitchens. Immediately after her post, I started to scrounge around the house looking for things to add to our mudpie kitchen. We had a kitchen in our backyard (you know, one of those plastic ones), but I wanted a more natural and "real" kitchen.

Our mudpie kitchen is evolving. The stove burners are made with moveable wooden cookies.

We have 2 shelves right now, I do see this changing over time as we accumulate and make changes. I love having the basket for utentils, and tried to gather wooden bowls and spoons. Yard sales and second hand stores have been great places to find all kinds of additions.

Our hanging baskets are the metal frames for hanging plants. I wanted them to match the "decor" so I sprayed them with copper paint. (They were a dirty white when I found them).

You can see, the baskets now match the copper molds. Note, the molds are great for decor, but they are also great for making the mud-pies in!

We currently have a plastic outdoor picnic table for our kitchen area. However, I was able to find a few large wooden spools last weekend and will be finishing one of those to make it into our new kitchen table. (Don't worry, I'll post photos when I make the update!)

How do we add water? Well, our water source is near the house, so we either run the hose or carry buckets.

You can watch some of the evolution of our mudpie kitchen area by clicking here.

Our Outdoor Music Area

This area of our yard has so many different sources of inspiration. The very first thing we added to the yard was our giant xylophone. I was first inspired to make one after visiting the U.P. Children's Museum indoor music area. They have a fantastic selection of handmade musical instruments.

The xylophone was originally coming off the fence into the yard. Now, we have it hanging on the fence. As you can see, we have added some color to it. I have made a number of posts in regard to the process we took to create this feature. The original post is located on my old blog and can be found by clicking here.

You can also see we have a metal xylophone. We made this by cutting pipe from "garbage." The pipes used came from broken metal coat racks. We used a pipe cuter (costs less than $5 at the hardware store) to cut them into various lengths. Then we drilled hole in the pipe to hang them with heavy duty fishing line. We also have some chimes hanging made from copper pipe. If you have been looking at some of my older posts, you may have noticed that we also made a xylophone with bamboo sticks. The bamboo did not last long. The rain caused it to start to decompose very quickly. We did add a number of metal chimes made with copper pipe I had left over from a previous project.

We also turned our big tractor tire into a large group drum. The center is a thin piece of plywood that we painted. Right now, there are 4 "stumps" around it for gathering. In addition to being a great drum, the children also use this area for a table. Sometimes, it is the "think tank" or circle time area.

We have a great drumming/banging station. This was made by a 2x4 connected to 2 posts that we pounded into the ground. I collected all kinds of lids from pots and pans and screwed them to both sides of the 2x4. If you plan to do this and will keep this outdoors for any extended period of time, make sure to use screws made for outdoor use. (Otherwise they will rust quickly). I also put some metal hooks on the structure to hold wooden spoons and other "drum sticks." Some of the lids are hanging with rope, and some of the spoons are connected with rope as well.
On the end, you can see a tambourine we made with metal can lids and beads. They are red because we sprayed them with paint to help keep them from rusting too quickly.

A couple of the lids on the end are elevated with sticks.

We added a "mini-yooper scooper" to the area for summer storage. The sound it makes when you bang on it is fantastic!

Here is a longer version of the tambourine.

A lot of the inspiration for some of the music area came from various posts linked on Teach Preschool on Facebook. If you search for an outdoor music tree, outdoor sound garden or music wall on the internet, you will see a wide array of great images to help you get started with your own outdoor music area.

An Easel on Our Fence

The easel on our fence is is quite basic. We took a piece of plywood (the kind that is made for outdoor use), that is 2 feet by 4 feet and used hinges to hook it to the fence.
We used two hinges, one on each end.The easel is at an angle because there is a scrap piece of a 1x6 screwed on the bottom of the plywood to keep it from touching the fence.
The easel is not placed very high from the ground, but works great for our little friends and the angle seems to be "just right"

We either tape the paper to the easel or use clothespins to clip it on. One of the "to do" project on our list is to add a holder to the fence for our paint and brushes. We can see our easel in action with a number of different projects on our blog.

I hope to take some time and reorganize some of the labels to make it easier to find some of the specific things you may be looking for as you work to make your own outdoor classrooms. If you are inspired or opt to use/expand upon some of these ideas, I would love to hear from you! I enjoy networking and I love to see how ideas grow.

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Anonymous said...

a great way to make holders for your paint would be flower boxes... you can screw then right to the fence and they already have drainage holes to let out the water when it rains :0)

Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

Thanks for the tip! We use those for our mud-pie kitchen, silly that I didn't think of them for the easel too!

Anonymous said...

This is AMAZING! I would love to make a music section in our backyard but I think the neighbors might complain. The mudpie kitchen is for sure getting added next summer when my girls are a little bit older and can use it. I have already starting collecting supplies for it!

Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

We live right downtown, and I was a little bit worried about the noise complaints too. We make sure to be conscious of the time when we use the music area. My husband has heard us banging from over 3 blocks away, but we have yet to have any formal "noise" complaint. Children outside making music is a good noise to have!

Elise said...

What an amazing set up. Very inspiring.

I really like the idea of a mudpie kitchen. I can imagine so many wonderful "cakes", "soups" and all sorts of creations being whipped up there and so much creative fun being had.

Your music area is also wonderful.

On my to do list for our summer we are going to make a "water wall" for our backyard which I saw in the following link:

Dorie said...

That is fabulous! What child wouldn't love to play with all those musical instruments. I know my children would. Great ideas.
I'm stopping by from the ABC and 123 link-up.

Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

Thanks Elise! The waterwall/sandwall is on our wishlist aka.... coming attractions! We have about 4-5 different additions that will hopefully make an appearance before the snow does! Thanks for the link, I don't think I saw that version of the wall :).

Jennifer said...

So ADORABLE!!! Can I come play in your yard? ;-)

Visiting from ABC and 123 Show & Tell!

Tami said...

I want to come to your back yard and play. The mud pie kitchen is great. I think I will be hitting the garage sales and find some things for a mud pie kitchen of my own.

Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

Thanks for all of the great comments and for stopping by :). Our yard is a work in progress, I love that we decided to start enhancing the play opportunities. Make sure you check out the other links and blogs where I found inspiration. There are so many wonderful ideas out there!

rachelle | tinkerlab said...

Thanks for all the instrument ideas. I used to work at the deCordova Museum, and one of our most popular sculptures was called Musical Fence.
it makes beautiful sounds.

Love the outdoor easel! Will bee adding that to the project list!

Juliet Robertson said...

Hi Amy

Thanks so much for telling me about this post. Wow! Next Monday I've got another music post coming up and it's great to be able to add a link to this post and your blog.

Best wishes

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...