When you think about your favourite childhood play experience, what comes to mind? Perhaps you remember collecting sticks in the woods? Or maybe it was family time at a beach, hiking in a local park or digging for bugs in the garden? Suffice it to say that some or most of those memories involve the outdoors; that is because simply being outside, with the freedom to explore and discover, is formative for children. They need unstructured experiences where they can investigate, create, test and imagine. They are fascinated by the natural world: climbing trees, whistling in blades of grass, making dandelion necklaces and running down hills. Unfortunately, increasingly sedentary lifestyles are contributing to a generation of children who lack opportunities for this type of play.
Natural playgrounds authentically connect children to nature by offering environments made of wooden logs, grass, rocks, pathways, trees, plants, water and sand. These play spaces mimic play by providing similar sensory experiences. Most importantly, they encourage children to use their imaginations, get dirty, take risks and surprise their senses. They invite children to run, climb, dig, pretend, learn and hide, while also offering opportunities to sit quietly and reflect.