Below is a letter from Sally Wehby, Executive Director of the UC Child Care Center, Inc. with their solution to providing today’s kids with the same unstructured play opportunities that many of us took for granted.
“A group of administrators and teachers from the UC Child Care Center, Inc. formed a committee during the summer of 2006 to discuss the use of a large piece of land in back of our child care facility. The Center already had traditional playgrounds for both infants and toddlers, as well as for our preschool age children. After sharing each other’s outdoor experiences as children, we came up with a wealth of activities for children to do outside that did not include the usual playground equipment often found in outdoor spaces designed for children. Inspired in part by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, we wanted our children to experience nature at its fullest and have the opportunities we had as children in our own backyard and beyond. Thus was the birth of our “Backyard Project”.
The UC Child Care Center “backyard” plan now includes a butterfly garden, vegetable and herb gardens, fruit trees, a large mound of dirt for digging, a rock garden for exploring and building, a dry creek bed, and plenty of bird houses and bird feeders to welcome our feathered friends. Along the way, we have discovered many friends who value the great out-of-doors including, Leave No Child Inside of Greater Cincinnati, the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. We look forward to our continued partnership as we continue to develop our outdoor space.”
Postscript: Here’s an update on this story from Sally Wehby, Director, along with some great photos of their inspiring project:
Please find attached some photos of our children using the backyard natural play space at the UC Child Care Center, Inc. They helped plant vegetable plants, herbs and flowers in beds provided by the Civic Garden Center. The older children made stepping stones for the garden during our Summer School-age Program. We also created a dirt mound and purchased scoops, sieves and buckets with grant funds we received from the Cincinnati Association for the Education of Young Children and had parent volunteers wheel barrow the dirt across the playground to its current location. Another parent hauled some huge tree stumps he had in his yard for the children to use as tables and stools. The children are seeing and soon will be eating the fruits of their labor in the vegetable and herb gardens. We now have full size tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and cantaloupe along with a variety of herbs!!