We hope these natural playground ideas inspire you to create your own eco-friendly, organic play space for your preschoolers to actively explore nature.
Natural playgrounds are one of the most popular alternatives to traditional play spaces among child care centers today. These types of playgrounds typically make use of natural materials to create an outdoor play area for children. A natural playground is thought to encourage young children to interact with their environment and make discoveries through open-ended play.
However, building an entirely new natural playscape can be a large investment for any preschool. That’s why we’ve created this list of easy to implement natural playground ideas so you can start incorporating natural play activities into your child care facility’s outdoor space immediately.
Wood is naturally grounding, and even the most rambunctious of preschool activities can have a sense of order with wooden playing materials. It is also quite open-ended and its use in play episodes is as boundless as the imagination.
- Use an arrangement of stumps or logs in a circle to create a natural seating area or meeting place. Arrange stumps in a semi-circular fashion to form a performance or story-telling space.
- A series of stumps in differing heights creates a challenging spot to step or jump across. Ensure that no pieces will tip over by burying at least a third of each below ground.
- Create the edges of a sandbox using logs, filling the center with sand for a free-form play area.
Plants stimulate the senses, and can bring a steady stream of awe and wonderment with seasonal shifts and evolutions. Plus, they naturally create a sense of adventure. Pretend play episodes can take place in rainforests, jungles, and more otherworldly woodland settings.
- Bring in as many plants as possible. Vary the types of shrubs and plants in your space, planting them not in straight lines, but in a more free-form, natural way to create hiding spots and secret spaces to explore.
- Plant different varieties of tall grasses to create natural hiding spots that children will love. These types of plants are very low maintenance and add interesting texture to your play area.
ROCKS AND STONES
Playing with rocks has been a treasured experience by many children, and rightfully so! Collecting them provides a sense of accomplishment and a pride in their abilities. Counting them is a simple way to develop numeracy skills. The potential for fun and learning is quite large. You rock, rock!
- Create paths throughout your outdoor space using flat stones. Children love to follow weaving pathways throughout gardens, trees and in between other features of your natural playground.
- If possible, use rocks to change the topography of your outdoor space. Hills, low spots and even piles of dirt can become inviting spaces for creative play. Climbing up and down small hills and mounds is great fun for kids of all ages.
These provide a sense of freedom while playing. Without any set rules, children are free to create, hypothesize, and experiment as their thoughts dictate. When creating your natural playground, incorporate a wide range of textures through plant life, rocks, wood, gravel, wood chips, etc. – the more, the better! A variety of textures will encourage different feelings and moods, inviting children to play in different ways. Keep loose items around to encourage free play. Ensure that you have extra log slices, small stones, sticks and more on hand so children can use them in pretend play scenarios and transport them around the playscape.
Actively exploring nature is an excellent way to encourage learning amongst children, help them work together cooperatively and develop their imagination. We hope these natural playground ideas have inspired you to create your own eco-friendly, organic play space for your preschool!
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