I believe the best backyard fun my kids had was accidental, but you can replicate it easily.
Realize, they had real ponies, a trampoline, numerous
outdoor toys including bikes, and loved them all. But they spent hours
and hours with groups of friends on a big left-over dirt pile that ended
up having no other purpose other than to let them do as they wanted
Imaginative spontaneous group activities from this pile consisted of building roads, cities, digging to China, burying treasures, and endless fantasies that stopped only because they grew into teenagers.
How to create dirt pile backyard fun
Have a truckload of soil or sand dumped into a corner of your yard. Rake it to your desired depth (see Keep it safe below) – then let the the kids go! Hose them off when they’re done. If the soil or sand dissipates naturally into the landscape over time, no harm done, just bring in another pile next season. Maybe even choose a new location. If it’s still around when the kids finally grow up, shovel it into your garden or mix in compost materials and offer it to local gardeners.
If kids are very small still, and you want their area to be more contained, put the soil or sand into a kiddy pool. They’re relatively inexpensive new, but you may also find one second hand. It doesn’t matter if it has a hole in the bottom because you need drainage holes anyway. Hammer a few nails here and there in the bottom so the pool drains out water rapidly after a rain.
An added bonus to this type of backyard fun
A recent study found that garden soil stimulates a brain chemical that brings on a sense of happiness. No wonder gardeners are addicted to their hobby.
Keep it safe
Use common safety
sense when choosing soil or sand. Some sand and soil is actually
considered a benefit to health, whereas other soils and sands are
considered potentially unhealthy. Double check with the location you
purchase the soil or sand from, making sure it’s safe for children's sandboxes. Don’t mix in or use unfinished compost. Do not allow human-sized
tunnels to be dug underneath very large piles of dirt, they can easily collapse on top of someone and be too heavy for them to pull themselves out. Keep all areas of your pile shallow enough to avoid a tunneling accident. Sandbox depths are often between 12 and 18 inches. Check a reliable source such as a health department for the safest depth for the type of soil or sand you're using, and for the age of kids who will play in the pile.
Additions to the dirt pile
If kids already have toy dump trucks and other small outdoor toys, they’ll enjoy taking them to their dirt pile. But you can also shop second hand for kid-safe large serving spoons, pitchers, buckets, plastic cups and little plastic people.
You can also occasionally sneak out and
bury surprises in the soil or sand, such as a treasure box, polished
stones or seashells purchased bulk from craft stores.
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