DIY Playground #1: Terrain and Planting for Play by space2place

If you only have the time or budget to do one thing for play, make a hill.

A simple pile of dirt can become a bike ramp, a fort, a stage, a hiding place, a slide, a launchpad for the imagination.  When I was growing up my amazing mother asked the dump truck drivers working on our street to leave a load of dirt in our yard.  It was hands down the best play feature ever, enjoyed by not just my brothers and sisters and me but everyone in the neighborhood.  There were four swingsets, two slides, and three playhouses on our street too, but the hill was the best.

Sometimes when I recommend hills, though, people are worried about the technical details of the slopes and I never had those answers, but landscape architect Jeff Cutler of space2place in Vancouver, Canada, whose great playgrounds have featured on the blog before does!

Jeff’s work is characterized by innovative shaping of the ground to create unique spaces for play accompanied by carefully chosen plantings that enliven the landscape and are themselves full of fun.  It’s a mystery to me why so many traditional playgrounds look like play deserts….scraped flat and raw and utterly barren.  Plants are safe!  Don’t make a play desert!

space2place is generously providing Playscapes readers with guidelines and suggestions for both play hills and great playground plantings.  It’s our first DIY playground feature in honor of Aldo’s birthday and it’s free for you to download, print, and share under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial license, which just means you must credit the source if you share it and you can’t sell it.

But you can use it to make your own awesome play features all you want!  All I ask is that you send me photos of what you do so I can eventually post a mash-up of reader projects, and that you leave nice thank-yous to space2place in the comments.


Watch for DIY play feature #2 on Monday.

Go make a playscape!


6 Responses to “DIY Playground #1: Terrain and Planting for Play by space2place”

  1. Raj said:

    We’re in the middle of redoing our backyard and our gardener told us the same thing – to use artificial turf instead of grass. I’m not crazy about it either and am wondering if anyone’s had success using real grass for a mound.

    September 27, 2014 at 4:31 am

  2. Paige Johnson said:

    Hey Katrina!
    I’ll send your query off to space2place for their input. Thanks!

    February 13, 2014 at 11:37 am

  3. Katrina said:

    So, we built a hill in the center of our non-profit playground. But, we couldn’t get the grass to grown on it and pretty soon the kids had worn it away. We consulted a landscape architect and she said we would have to use artificial turf-yuck! We’re about to do away with the hill, which makes us all sad….is there anything you might recommend that could make it work for us?

    February 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm

  4. arcady said:

    Hi Seren Dippity,
    You'll need to actually download the pdf file, not just the image…click on the link in the post and it should take you there!

    July 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm

  5. Seren Dippity said:

    This looks totally fascinating! I also remember a truck load of dirt in our yard in preparation for some construction. It was in our yard for the summer before being used up and it was the best fun ever!

    I do have a problem with your graphics though. The image is so small I cannot read any of the text. I downloaded the file and it is still not legible. I tried several ways to enlarge the photo and all I get is blurrier text.

    July 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  6. laura said:

    This is so awesome and really great resource. thanks for taking the time to publish these!

    March 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm

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