One of the latest trends in child care is the move towards natural playgrounds. A natural playground is designed to make use of existing topography and natural materials to create an open-ended outdoor play area for children to make discoveries and interact with their environment. Play structures within natural playgrounds are often created using tree stumps, logs, rocks and water to offer a wide range of opportunities to connect children back to nature, stimulate creativity and encourage development. Here’s a look at why the idea of a natural playground is becoming increasingly popular among child care centers, schools and cities across North America and beyond.
They Help Children Be More Active
A natural setting lends itself to an increased level of activity. Studies show that when natural elements are incorporated into a playground, the length of time a child plays is more than doubled. Natural playgrounds present a wealth of opportunities for children of all skill and activity levels to improve their fitness levels through play.
They Are Accessible
Natural playgrounds, unlike traditional plastic style playgrounds, are more welcoming to children of all abilities. A natural playground does not discriminate when it comes to differing fitness levels, abilities, intelligences, genders and cultures. Children are encouraged to create their own ways to play, rather than being dictated on how to play by the equipment available to them.
They Encourage Imaginative Play
Many natural playscapes are designed to stimulate the imagination and encourage creativity. Features are typically incorporated to promote imaginative play through a variety of sensory stimulation, including touch, sight and sound. It has been found that children who play in more natural settings tend to play in more diverse and creative ways, and show improvement in the areas of collaboration and language skills.
They Improve Social Skills
Since by nature, a natural play space does not dictate how children should play, young people are encouraged to collaborate and communicate with their peers. Through play in an open-ended setting, children improve their sharing, negotiation, problem solving, empathy, and leadership skills as they work together.
They Aid in the Development of Motor Skills
One of the greatest benefits of natural playgrounds is found in the way they help children improve their fine motor skills. A natural setting involves a vast array of textures, sensory activities, gardens and natural sounds to encourage children to engage all of their senses. Through touching, feeling and collecting natural objects, fine motor activity is challenged and strengthened.
Is a natural playground right for your child care center? Stay tuned to the HiMama blog for more ideas on how to incorporate natural play into your daily activities!