Ideas for adding natural elements to your outdoor play space – Part 1

27th July, 2011 - Posted by - No Comments

Editor’s Note: As educators start preparing for the new school year, I thought it was the perfect time to share a post on how you can enhance your play space and give children the opportunity to connect with nature on a daily basis.

Once again, The Body Smart Blog turns to one of our favorite bloggers and educators, Jenny Kable.  Jenny’s knack for providing opportunities for self-directed play and learning is second to none — and her love of natural and good old messy play is contagious. I hope this post inspires many of you  to change “business as usual” on the playground.

For more tips on naturalizing your play space, check out The Office of Head Start’s Natural World site. You can also download our tip sheet!

Huge thanks to Jenny for continuing to share her words and photos with us here!

Play on, Bethe :-)

You all know how I love natural play spaces for children.  Research shows that natural environments are beneficial to children in many ways – or as my friend Marghanita Hughes more poetically puts it:

“When children and nature mix, something magical happens – every child deserves that Magic!”

So it goes without saying that I am thrilled our new Early Years Learning Framework agrees:

Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.

They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.  Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework, 2009

There are many ways you can incorporate natural elements into your backyard or playground.  Over the next few days lets look at some ideas from around the blogosphere to help you dream your very own natural playscape:

Giant tree stumps form the border around Teacher Tom’s new sandpit, creating stepping stones, seats or a handy play surface:

Image via Teacher Tom


Arranging stumps at different heights around a sandpit can create an extra element of challenge:

image from Miller Company Landscape Architects


Structures like willow huts, sunflower houses or bean teepees create natural hideouts for children, but how about super sizing this concept and going for a living tunnel:

Image via Tree Inspired


Or how about creating a simple frame for plants to climb over, creating an irresistible outdoor fort:

Image via Ohdeedoh


This simple arrangement of logs forms an inviting meeting space, story telling area or performance space:

Image via Tree Inspired


Or on a smaller scale:


For more outdoor playscape inspiration:
::: Irresistible Outdoor Playscape Series
::: Creating Playscape Series
::: Create a Natural Playscape in your own Backyard

Stay tuned… Jenny

Blogger Bio: Jenny Kable is an early childhood educator, teaching and learning from children in a progressive preschool setting nestled in the beautiful Australian bush. Her blog, Let The Children Play, is filled with wonderful ideas and inspiration. Jenny is a favorite blogger around here! You can follow her on Twitter @preschoolplay.

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