Have you ever found yourself saying “I wish I had a playground like that?”

When I first started my preschool, I spent some serious time searching for playground equipment. I really wanted to have a cool playset that the children could play on. There is so much out there but the things I really loved were sooooo expensive!

And so, I have had to do with what I have but over time, I began to realize that not being able to afford the beautiful playground equipment I had once dreamed about may have actually been the best thing ever…

Healthy Risk Taking

Had I begged and pleaded my husband to let me spend our life savings on a super cool climber (jungle gym), then I wouldn’t have ever let my students climb on our rocks. Oh no, I would have definitely have stayed with the mindset that the rocks were too hard, too dangerous, too big for the children to manage…

And had I purchased one of those super cool curly slides with a tunnel on top, I wouldn’t have ever considered taking my students down the big, sometimes slippery, leaf covered hill that we found way back in the woods. No sir, not me…

And there is no way on earth would I have considered letting the children climb on the logs that are out everywhere in our back yard. I am not being precocious here. I am totally serious. I would have thought the logs would be too risky to even consider such an idea…

And I most likely would haven’t had a reason to take walks in the woods because I suspect I would have thought the playground equipment is a much better idea. You see, I am not naturally an outdoorsy type so I wouldn’t have even thought about making our woods a priority for the children’s experience at my preschool…

Being Resourceful

But, since I couldn’t afford pretty much any kind of playground equipment, I have had to make the most of what I have. Not having a playground like the one at the park has taught me to think outside of the box and use what I do have more creatively…

Not having a playground like that has taught me how to try out other interesting ideas…

Not having a playground like that has taught me to seek out materials for free that I can use instead…

Not having a playground like that has taught me to take the tables and other things that I do have outside…

Exploring with Nature

Not having a playground like that has taught me, my co-teachers and my students to appreciate nature and all those little critters we find all over the place…

Building Community

Not having a playground like that has taught me all the many ways that young children like to play and how resourceful they can be…

Not having a playground like that

Not having a playground like that has shown me the different styles of play my students enjoy such as running as fast as they can…

Or playing group games together…

Enjoying the Simple Pleasures

Or relaxing for a few minutes…

Encouraging Imaginative Play

Or using their imagination to stir up a warm fire for toasting leaf marshmallows.

Embracing Play all Year Long

If I had a playground like that, I most likely would not want the children to play on it in the snow. It would be easier to keep them inside and avoid the struggle…

And because the rain makes a slide or swings or jungle gym slippery when wet, I wouldn’t want to deal with that hassle either…

Nope, if I had a playground like that I would be an entirely different teacher than I am today. I wouldn’t know the difference as I wouldn’t have been faced with the challenges of what to do with the children instead…

On occasion, I still look at different playground equipment and admire them but I no longer wish I had a playground like that…

A New Perspective

I am a different teacher now than I was all those years ago. I see outdoor play from a whole new perspective and I am thankful for what I do have… And I am thankful for what not having a playground like that has taught me about myself, my students, and exploring nature.

My students seem happy, my staff seems happy, and so am I.

Links to Grow On

For ideas and beautiful natural materials for the outdoors, check out Nature Explore!

Five Tips for Taking Preschool Journals Outdoors! by Teach Preschool

Nature Shadow Boxes by Teach Preschool

A Collection of Inspiring Outdoor Play Scapes by Teach Preschool