5 popular nature playground ideas
Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Nature-based playgrounds have a lot to offer in terms of child-development benefits. While unstructured, self-directed play is the name of the game, below are some great features that can be used in a natural playspace to extra advantage!
1. Self Build Cubbies
One of the classics, self build cubbies provide a fun hideout - while giving children a sense of ownership and letting them get creative!
Stick a natural (but structurally sound) timber frame in your playspace, and children will find all sorts of things to make walls, roofs and doors as unique as their personalities!
2. Mud Kitchen / Sand table / Work bench
Mud pies, leaf stew, water play and stirring sticks - exploring with natural materials is an important part of development and connection with nature. Having the space to test out ideas encourages experimentation, especially with a variety of tools, such as racks, bowls, strainers and bench space.
If we are discussing learning and playing in nature, it is hard to go past growing your own plants! Children have a lot to learn from plants; cause and effect from sun, water and care, responsibility, discovery as they grow and much more. Even simple small succulents and grasses can offer a lot to a child's understanding of the world and how things grow.
4. Log Playgrounds
Using natural logs in playgrounds combines much of the traditional play activities of balance and climbing equipment and adds in variety and discovery elements that are incomparable.
Natural logs provide shapes and textures that challenge and develop dexterity and joint articulation in children, who are most likely used to flat or uniform surfaces throughout much of their lives. This is an essential part of developing complex motor-skills.
Natural logs also provide natural "defects" such as insect trails and growth patterns that provide fascinating discoveries and lead to a greater interest in the natural world.
5. Sensory Trails
More direct than the textural discoveries in natural log play, sensory trails are specifically designed to encourage children to look at the environment around them - to touch and feel and discover nature. This could be a path made from different natural surfaces, a trail through a garden full of plants, a walkway with textural poles and loose play elements, or any combination of sensory discoveries. Teach children to engage with the opportunities nature provides!