How nature is incorporated into playground design
A natural playground design incorporates natural elements such as trees, rocks, water, sand, and more. Unlike your standard prefabricated metal or plastic playground, natural playgrounds don’t stick to a one size fits all model. They are uniquely designed to suit the surrounding environment to create a sense of cohesion and organic flow. Natural play areas should promote free play. This means creating play spaces that are blank canvases rather than pre-determined with a ‘play theme’. For example, rather than building a pirate ship fort, a large log can become a sailing pirate ship one day and a flying spaceship the next.
With natural playground design, some playgrounds are constructed entirely from natural materials, while others are made using synthetic and organic materials inspired by nature. Good design should understand the balance between different materials and the expected longevity of an item versus ongoing maintenance.
The benefits of natural playgrounds
Natural playgrounds offer children more opportunities for exploration, discovery, learning, and play than traditional playgrounds. They enable children to move freely and creatively around the space. On a traditional playground, play is guided by the equipment. These prefabricated playgrounds leave less room for creativity. On a natural playground, free play spaces and loose parts leave the potential for play open to interpretation.
Spending time immersed in nature is beneficial to children and adults alike. Children who struggle with anxiety or depression or are hyperactive are likely to experience a boost in their mood and a reduction in negative feelings when they spend time in nature. Plus, for all children, being in the presence of nature can help them feel more connected to the world around them. The physical exercise, social interactions, and learning opportunities enjoyed on the playground can all contribute to a healthy and happy child.
Safety & mindfulness
Nature playgrounds can encourage children to consider their safety. Traditional playgrounds have removed most injury risks. Risk-taking is a healthy part of childhood and can help build a child’s self-confidence. Natural playgrounds can encourage healthy and considered risk-taking by giving children more opportunities to consider multiple ways of tackling an obstacle.
Modern play equipment is not as good for the environment as it could be. Petroleum-based plastics can emit trace amounts of toxins that accumulate over time. Rain will carry these toxins to the surrounding soil, making it less suitable for the life that depends on it. Replacing toxic plastics with logs and native vegetation is a great way to counter these issues, creating a circular lifestyle and supporting the neighbouring ecosystem.
Ready to go natural?
It is clear to see why so many early childcare centres, schools, and communities are choosing natural playground equipment over traditional play spaces. If you need a safe, natural, and unique playground, get in touch with us. Our team are dedicated to providing children of all ages with an environment that allows them to imagine, explore and discover.