We believe that creating an environment that mirrors a natural environment is the best way to engage the imagination and creativity of a child. For us, our focus is to simulate natural environments. The trees, the forest, the earth. In this way, we believe we are enabling children to appreciate nature and and learn about their environment in a really fun way. Another area of focus for us is to create environments that enable problem solving. Traditional playgrounds often have a clear/direct path and or method to move through. As we design, we think to how a child might use their imagination in traversing a bendy log bridge or how the child might navigate a netted slack line to get to the top of the tree house. But the greatest reason, is the simplest reason, to inspire more play. Research has shown that natural play structures more than double the amount of playtime a child experiences when compared to traditional play structures. Play is so critical to childhood development.
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges. Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to be child driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
Let's play more!!
The below is an article written by Childhood by Nature that sheds light on the research and studies that support the benefits of natural playgrounds.
Natural playgrounds or play spaces present more opportunities for exploration, discovery, learning, and play than traditional playgrounds. Natural playgrounds enable children to move freely and creatively around the environment allowing them to explore, run, jump, climb, crawl, touch, smell, etc, helping connect kids with nature, develop gross motor function, fine motor skills, imagination, and social skills, all at the same time.
Studies show that kids enjoy natural playgrounds more as they encourage more active play and lead to extended playtime compared to traditional playground environments. Research has found that when children go to traditional playgrounds, they can get bored quickly as the structures tend to put limitations on a child’s creativity, challenge and flexibility. Whereas a nature playground may have boulders that can be used in different ways, trees to climb higher each time logs to balance on or run over or use as seating. Nature playgrounds have also been proven to encourage children to consider their safety. In traditional playgrounds, most risks of injuries have been removed.
Summary of key benefits
Children who play regularly in natural settings are sick less often. Mud, sand, water, leaves, sticks, pine cones and gum nuts can help to stimulate children's immune system as well as their imagination.
Children play more on natural/adventure based playgrounds
Children who spend more time outside tend to be more physically active and less likely to be overweight.
Children who play in natural settings are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth.
Children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills. Single use, repetitive play equipment becomes boring quickly.
Natural, irregular and challenging spaces help kids learn to recognise, assess and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence.
Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.
Bullying behaviour is greatly reduced where children have access to diverse nature-based play environments.
Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder are reduced after contact with nature.
Here are a few more articles that speak to the benefits of natural play