I’ve got my fair share of junk in my garden but that’s another story for another day. We’ve all seen those lovely posts with those fabulous outdoor weighing scales haven’t we but lots of us are on a very tight budget so hey, I made one for £2. Granted, it’s not as wit-woo as Evergreen’s but you can use it while you’re saving up for one of theirs. This was the cost of two tin buckets from the pound shop. I already had some string and a clothes hanger – who doesn’t right? Now, if you have one spare (and let’s be honest, you probably haven’t got around to tidying up your hanging baskets yet) you could hang it from an existing neglected hanging plant bracket but we had a lot of off-cuts of timber around and so just knocked one up with a closed hook on the end (so we can move the apparatus to different parts of the garden if that’s what the children want and for times when we cannot supervise play eg if we work alone as many Childminders do and when we’re preparing snack or changing a nappy). Until we put up another bracket in this area we are also using this same bracket to attach a pulley which is just a simple rope with a bucket on the end. There’s a knot in the string to stop it pulling all the way through as the heavy bucket touches the floor. Be sure to do a risk benefit assessment taking into account the ages and phases of development of the children using the area and to maintain constant supervision. What’s so good about this apparatus is it can be swiftly removed if you need to step away. This will meet with moans and groans but it’s only for a minute or two and safety first guys.

The children decide for themselves how they want their space set up and are free to adapt it themselves as their interests change throughout the day. Remain close by but don’t interfere – they’ll ask for help if they need it. Little engineers in the making they are.

In this particular area the children have access to logs, log slices, different dimensions of timber, bark, sand, compost, wood chips, rainwater and stones.  They also have different sized plant pots to fill and stainless steel utensils for mixing and baking in their outdoor kitchen which is actually a pine bookcase that we adapted a couple of years ago and is still going strong.

Now, besides the obvious hive of maths activity going on, we have children using hand held tools to dig and rake and spread (PD); children building structures from all of the natural materials (EA&D) – lots of discussion and negotiating going on as you can imagine (C&L); sounds from the natural environment (UW) with squirrels jumping from tree to tree, birds dropping by to eat our newly sown seeds (the cheek of it), planes flying overhead, cockerels cockadoodledooing in the allotments, bees buzzing in and out of our bee houses, diggers digging fresh graves and bagpipes at graveside ceremonies (yes, my garden backs onto a cemetery) and, of course, the frogs plopping into the puddle behind the planters. There’s children mark-making on hand-held chalk boards, dry wipe boards and clipboards as they scour the shrubs for hidden foam letters and record their findings; building log pile houses and dens to hide from the Gruffalo (Lit) and “making music” by banging logs with hammers and tools. And all this while we run around laughing, enjoying the sunshine, the wind and the rain (PSED). Yup, it’s all going on in our messy maths area.

Now go on – go and make your own messy maths area, you know you’re dying to.