A Backyard Space for Play and Learning (and Reading)

We’ve been spending quality time in our backyard lately, and I thought I might share this little corner of our home with you.The arrival of spring always instils a fresh new love for our backyard, but since bringing Ike home after an 8-day stay at the Royal Children’s Hospital, the kids have just delighted in the opportunity to spend as much time in the backyard as possible, a place where there isn’t any stifled air or dull, restricting walls.

You’ll see that our backyard is really quite simple but it inspires wonderful play and provides opportunities to engage in play-based learning.

Let me take you on a little tour of our backyard space:

Australian backyard cubby house_ My Little Bookcase

Santa built this cubby house for Cammy a few years ago. It is a mini replica of our little 1950s weatherboard home (I might have given Santa a few specific design instructions- wink wink!), and I just love it- so do the kids!  It is certainly the hero of our backyard. Sure, I enjoy being up there with Cammy and Ike, but I also love getting a glimpse of it as I hang the washing on the line and every now and then, when I’m shutting up the windows and door, I’ll steal a few extra minutes to sit up there by myself. It is just so tranquil and innocent.

Books are important to us so they have certainly influenced the décor in the cubby house.

Possum Magic Cubby House Bunting_ My Little Bookcase

I made a beautiful Possum Magic bunting for Ike’s first birthday party, but it was such a windy day that all the flags just gathered into a little bunch, and it sort of went unnoticed. So as not to waste this beautiful piece, it now hangs proudly  in the cubby house.

Cubbyhouse artwork and book display_ My Little Bookcase

The walls are adorned with some of the kids’ own artworks and gorgeous illustrations we cut and framed from the My Little Bookcase 2013 calendar , along with the Ikea spice rack bookshelves that Cammy proudly painted herself. We rotate the books seasonally.

In the cubby house there are a few specific spaces:

A reading corner

We rotate the books seasonally.

Cubby House Reading Corner_ My Little Bookcase

A play kitchen

The play kitchen is filled with a mismatch of unused furniture and surplus toys.

Cubby House Kitchen Corner_ My Little Bookcase

A Dressing table (that doubles as a writing desk)

Cubby House Dressing Table_ My Little Bookcase

A round table set

This table used to be in our home before we re-organised the writing station for the kids, and then it was moved into the cubby house. It is sometimes used as a dining table here and other times it becomes an art desk.

Cubby House Art Space_ My Little Bookcase

At the beginning of every season, we like to give the cubby house a bit of a spring clean: a dust, a window clean, and a wash down of the toys. We rotate the books in the reading corner and add a vase of fresh flowers from the garden.

Cubby House Spring Clean_ My Little Bookcase

Cubby House Spring Clean_ My Little Bookcase

At Christmas we enjoy jazzing it up with some seasonal decorations.

Christmas Reading Corner_ My Little Bookcase

I specifically asked ‘Santa’ for a double story cubby house to create extra space in the back yard. We haven’t really created a specific use for the space under the cubby house,  other than adding a few nails in the structure to hang pots and pans and a swinging sign for Cam’s Cafe (which we converted from a piece of Cammy’s artwork). It’s a great place for the kids to create mud-kitchen recipes and run little pop-up cafés though (Print your own mud kitchen recipe book template for outdoor cooking).

Outdoor kitchen/cafe_ My Little Bookcase Outdoor cafe/kitchen_My Little Bookcase

Cammy loves creating all sorts of concoctions (which is where I got the idea for a mud kitchen recipe book- you can download and print a template here).

It’s been five years since our extension and we still haven’t planted flowers in our garden beds, which is okay because Cammy likes to use them to create fairy gardens. We’ve got quite a few around the place. Fairy gardens provide a wonderful opportunity to build an interest in writing.

My Little Bookcase Fairy Garden My Little Bookcase Fairy Garden

The back fence is a canvas for all sorts of art- I simply provide a bit of chalk, paint or mud.

Backyard Literacy_ My Little Bookcase Backyard Literacy- Painting with Mud_ My Little Bookcase

and the generous grass area provides space for gross motor activities, impromptu play and planned outdoor literacy and book-inspired activities.

Outdoor Alphabet Hunt


Check out some more of my favourite Australian backyards and cubby houses.

Children’s Books Daily: A cubbyhouse that became an art studio

Mummy Musings and Mayhem: Easy recycled pallets for outdoor play

Adventures at Home with Mum: A marvellous mud kitchen

Happy Whimsical Hearts: A magical children’s garden

Learn with Play at Home: A simple mud kitchen

Suzie’s Homeschool Adventures: A DIY outdoor kitchen

Be a Fun Mum: A makeshift tinsel tent for drawing

Octavia and Vicky: Tissue box traffic lights

Mother Natured: Spider Web Obstacle Course

Also visit Childhood 101 for a host of inspiring outdoor spaces

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About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

A Backyard Space for Play and Learning (and Reading)


  1. LOVE the space you created!

  2. i can see why your cubby is the hero of your backyard. I love how you change the books around each season and decorate your cubby with all things festive for Christmas. Your children are going to have such fond and precious memories of their time spent creating, playing, reading and having fun in their very special and much loved cubby.

  3. What a gorgeous space Jackie! I want to hang out in your backyard too :-) I love the decorations and decor in the cubby house, and that it is modeled on your home! Amazing! And I just clicked through to Ike’s birthday (I’ve read it before), such an inspired party though, love it!! You are an amazing mum xx

  4. What an incredible space! I’d spend so much time there myself. Where did you get the cubby house? I love it.

  5. Wondering if there’ll be a 2015 or 2016 illustrated calendar…

    Needing to cycle my frames & prints again :)

  6. Such a fun play house! I love all of your banners hanging from the ceiling. Thanks for sharing!

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