With the weather in southern California giving us year-round opportunities for active outside play, we have put an emphasis on creating areas that appeal to the children. We are fortunate to have a large back yard so we divided it into three distinct play areas. The Entry Level play area is where our youngest children play and it has equipment that is safe for all ages. The second area is for older children and it has equipment that is appropriate for preschoolers. The third area is only for children who are at least 4 years old and who are safety conscious.
Castle on the Hill (4 years and older)
Our most unique area is the “Castle on the Hill” which is for children who are 4 years or older. A play castle is built at the top of a 20 foot slope at the back of our yard with a winding pathway leading up to it. The children have a fantastic view from inside the enclosed castle. The large windows are covered with Plexiglas to give a panoramic view but also to provide safety. The pathway is lined with sturdy fencing on the down-hill side to prevent accidental falls. The path has a small climbing structure that leads from the first level to the second level and it has a caterpillar climb-through to transition from the second level to the third level. The starting point to enter the pathway up to the castle is at the top of a large slide that is built into the side of the hill. The entire castle structure was professionally built with the guidance of a Structural Engineer and has been approved by the California Department of Social Services.
The Entry Level Play Area (all ages)
The Entry Level Play Area is used by all ages but the older children are taught to look out for the younger ones when they are playing in this area. The older children are encouraged to help younger children which gives them a feeling of empowerment and the younger children love the attention from an older child.
This area has nearly 800 square feet of grass for running and playing on as well as other areas protected by Astroturf. One of the permanent play structures in this area is a Little Tikes swing set with a slide. This swing set has been modified to hold a chair swing attached to a swivel so a child can spin and twirl which research shows is good for mid-brain develop in children this age. Other play structures in this area include a climbing dome, a Little Tikes castle, a 6 X 10 foot sandbox, a climb-on fire truck, a play house with dishes and food, a ball rack for large and medium size balls, a rocket-twirl spinning ride, a small roller coaster, a small teeter totter, balance beams, a ball pit, stick horses, picnic tables, and patio swings in both child-size for the children and adult-size for the teacher and the children to relaxing in together.
There are three large storage sheds in the yard full of toys we rotate on various days. The toys we rotate include a fleet of ride-on cars, trucks and scooters, a water table, a transparent climb-through tunnel, wagons, parachute play, rocking horses, sit and spins, hula hoops, balance beam stones, building blocks, push vehicles, lawn mowers, strollers with dolls, an inflatable bounce house, and other toys.
In the yard we also have an 11 foot by 20 foot covered platform that is used for various play activities and also used as a stage when the children want to perform.