This Old House (yes, I've stopped getting Parents magazine in favor of TOH, I must be a parenting Pro by now, or it's too late to learn anything else... I'm not sure.) magazine had a neat article about a woman in Seattle and her sustainable yard. I've always thought that kids need a big patch of grass for running around on, and to some extent I still do, but when I think back about playing in the yard as a child, I think about picking raspberries, and rose hips, and those little cheese-weed things, and putting them in a bucket and rigging up sticks to pretend we were cooking our bounty over a fire. The pretend fire-cooking usually happened under the overhangs of two lilac bushes, or in the center of a close grove of trees.
We did regularly play soccer or baseball in the field next to our house, which was mostly grass, but I don't remember the grass being central to my adventures, and I look out at my backyard with no places to hide or pretend is a cave and I feel like my kids are losing out on such an important part of childhood.
I've planned so much of my yard for growing food (or grass that would have to be pulled up (and a Mister who'd have to be talked into pulling up grass)) that there are few places I could grow any kind of fort. We did make a play house out of PVC pipe and sheets several years ago, so we may have to get it out this summer, but I'm also thinking about growing a sunflower fort on the side of my house where the compost bin and nothing else is currently. Wouldn't this be fun to play in?
I had looked at the article in TOH when it came a couple of months ago, and I remember thinking how cool the yard was, and then thinking how there just wasn't enough grassy space for kids to play. Since I've changed my mind about how much grass a kid really needs in their backyard (especially considering the proximity of several parks), I'm looking again at this and thinking how much I'd like my kids to have places to imagine and hide and pretend.
Here's the layout-and to see pictures and read more information about this cool yard, click on the "sustainable yard" link above. (The only thing wrong with this layout is that it needs more fruit trees and garden beds)