Nature Playgrounds

What are “Natural playgrounds”?


They are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex play spaces with high levels of play value.  Natural Playgrounds provide children with all the same benefits as typical playgrounds: gross motor activity, risk taking, problem solving, social interaction, etc.  Natural Playgrounds also teaches children about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world.

A totally natural playground creates a beautiful, outdoor play and learning environment.  Play components could include:

  • Earth shapes
  • Hills to roll down
  • Environmental art
  • Trees to climb
  • Logs to climb through
  • Shrubs
  • Grasses
  • Flowers
  • Boulders or other rock structures
  • Dirt and sand
  • Natural fences (stone, willow, wooden)
  • Textured pathways, and
  • Natural water features

Each Natural Playground is different as they are designed to fit the landscape
where they are being located.  Below are a list of websites where you can see
pictures of many varieties of Natural Playgrounds.

Natural Playgrounds do not replace commercially made equipment.  Children
need both types of playspaces.  Natural Playgrounds are perfect for schools
as they can also function as outdoor classrooms.  Natural Playgrounds often
cost much less to design and create than traditional playgrounds.

Want to learn more:

Nature Playgrounds–Danish landscape architect Helle Nebelong outlines her approach to natural play spaces with the help of four supporting case studies.


PLACES for PLAY: Exhibition—  A photo exhibition that illustrates some of the many
imaginative ways of creating play environments

Design for Play: a guide to creating successful play spaces–A presentation is based on the Play England publication: Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces, by Aileen Shackell, Nicola Butler, Phil Doyle, and David Ball.


Nature Explore–Nature Explore is a collaborative program of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. The goal of this comprehensive, research-based initiative is to help children and families develop a profound engagement with the natural world, where nature is an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning.

Natural Learning Initiative–The purpose of the Natural Learning Initiative is to promote the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information.

Learning through Landscapes–A UK charity which advises governments, engages the private sector and enables schools and early years settings to make the most of outside spaces for children’s education and well being.

Evergreen–Evergreen is a not-for-profit organization that makes cities more livable. By
deepening the connection between people and nature, and empowering Canadians to take a hands-on approach to their urban environments, Evergreen is improving the health of our cities—now and for the future.

Boston Schoolyard Initiative–Since 1995, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative (BSI) has been transforming Boston’s schoolyards from barren asphalt lots into dynamic centers for
recreation, learning and community life.

The Natural Playground Company–The Natural Playgrounds Company® is a small,
customer-oriented design firm specializing in natural play environments and natural
playscapes for child care centers, schools, and communities.  They have good resources on
their site.

Therapeutic Landscapes–The Therapeutic Landscapes Network provides information, education and advocacy about gardens, landscapes and other green spaces that promote health and well-being.


Return to Resource Page

or visit another topic:

ADA and Playgrounds

Disabilities and Play

Find an accessible or inclusive playground

Fundraising and Grant Writing


Play, Playground, and Recess Research

Saving Play and Recess

Universal Design

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