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 accessible 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
- 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.
Why do we need Natural Playgrounds?
Evidence is accumulating about the benefits of play in a natural environment
- as well as about the effects of being deprived of natural play opportunities.
“Children are losing their connection with the natural environment and
their wellbeing and environmental quality are inextricably linked. The
worse a local environment looks, the less able children are to play
freely” Thomas and Thompson, A Child’s Place Demos
Dr Marcus Roberts, Policy manager at the mental health charity MIND,says
“Being outdoors and being active is proven to benefit mental health”
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are growing problems for
children and their parents and carers. “The ‘greener’ a child’s play area,
the less severe his or her AD symptoms”, say Taylor, Kuo & Sullivan from
the Human Environment Research Lab - University of Illinois.
“Evidence shows that contact with the outdoors, and especially with the
natural environment, is important for children, particularly in the middle
years of childhood. The benefits of building a relationship with nature
include a sense of identity, of being in the natural world, and
experiencing the restorative effects of special places, which are often
secret”. Se by Stuart Lester and Martin Maudsley of Playwork
All of the pictures are copyrighted to Tim Gill. Tim is one of the UK's leading thinkers on childhood and an
effective advocate for change. His work focuses on children's play and free time. Let Kids Play appreciates Tim
for letting us share his work. You can follow Tim's work on his website: Rethinking Childhood
Clissold Park logs
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