This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months, but I still want input on how else we can improve the playground. Ideas?
The toddler playground at Dynamite is constantly a work in progress, and our last change was to remove the sandbox and replace it with a sand table. Since the sandbox was round, above ground, and too small for the children to sit in, they were stuck kneeling over the side on the gravel. Very uncomfortable - I know because I will get right down there with them and show how to make sandcastles, or rivers when the sand is really wet. Since it was a spur of the moment change, we didn't have a budget for the new equipment and made do with what we had - the basin of an old water table and some cinder blocks - the legs of our first shelves. We've moved on to lovely open wire shelving (no corners to fill up with dirt!), but the cinder blocks had been painted and were sitting on the side of the building for a future project.
We actually started out with a painted tire, and got it all the way filled up with sand so snakes and bugs couldn't hide inside of it (we are in the desert, after all). It took several trips of three-at-a-time toddlers, a wheelbarrow, and me, back and forth to the big sand area for the primary children. We filled up the wheelbarrow and took turns pushing it back and forth, then each time I lifted it and poured the sand into the tire. We also shoveled all the sand from the old sandbox into it. Then we put the basin on top and it didn't look right... plus it wasn't very stable. Ms. Mary Jane and I figured that with two-year-olds hanging over the edges, we would need something much stabler. So we took out those old cinder blocks and moved the tire out of the way. Then the sand, shovel-full by patient shovel-full, filled up the cinder blocks. It actually went pretty fast, because most of the class helped. This time when we put the basin on top it looked just right, and the children helped scoop the rest of the sand into the top part to play with.
Now the sand toys rest in a smaller basin under the sand table, making for a much cleaner look when the table isn't in use. It's easier to get the sand cleaned up from around the bottom edges, too. We can remove the plug and let it drain when rain fills it up with too much water, and it is a better shape and size for multiple children without taking up much more space. Best of all, the children can stand up to use it.
I love that we were able to put in at least twice as much sand as we used in the sandbox, because the basin is deeper. I think it makes for a better work area than before, when it was common to scrape the bottom because children kept carrying off cupfuls to work with at a table, and then spilling them on their way back and forth.
I'd love to hear some more ideas about how to improve our playground! The chain link, especially, seems very... industrial, to me, partially because the area is fairly small and the fence is so high compared to all the little toddler furniture. I'd like to make it more beautiful all the way around, and maximize the space - so everything that takes up space must have a purpose, just like the classroom.
Post ideas in the comments, please!
Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.