Play spaces in natural environments should include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. But why are natural play spaces so important now? Because children are connected to, and contribute to, their world.
For example, the creative placement of rocks and boulders around a play space can provide children with easy to challenging “routes”. Rocks and boulders can be great for learning climbing skills or just good old fashioned fun. Children almost always gravitate toward rocks and boulders, they become the immediate favourite place for children of all ages to explore and interact. In addition to defining areas such as a sand area or dry creek bed, rocks and boulders provide opportunities for challenging and fun play, and add to the natural materials used in play spaces. Children’s balancing skills are tested when they make their way along a boulder border or use the boulders as stepping stones. The boulders can also be a good place to sit and rest, talk or watch. Cleverly arranged rocks and boulders are safe. Children have a healthy respect for the solidity and hardness of rocks and boulders and develop their own sense of care, concern, and safety when they climb on them.
Mounds made from soil or wet pour rubber give a three dimensional aspect to an area that may be otherwise flat and a child may experience a feeling of being the king or queen of the castle and view the world from a different level. Mounds can be crawled over safely by babies, can be used to “hide” behind, for sitting or lying on, and can have a wide variety of play items added to them. Mounds can also be used for a variety of other items to be inserted on or through the mound. This can include slides which are installed onto the mound giving added safety as a fall by a child would be from a reduced height. Mounds can be landscaped with plants suitable to your area including small trees for shade, shrubs and native grasses.
Natural play spaces invite open ended interactions, spontaneity, risk taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature. Kids will foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.
Aarons Landscaping’s specialists are experts in creating natural playscapes for play areas in Early Learning Centres and we know how important nature play is in developing cognitive, creativity and social skills, increasing wild imaginations, and it has even been said to reduce rates of childhood aggression.