Natural Playground ELEMENTS – a bit of advocacy

I’m still thinking about the whole natural playground concept.
Though there will always be forward-thinkers out there, realistically, I think it’s unreasonable to expect that the well-meaning people responsible for public playgrounds will suddenly switch to a completely different model than the one they’ve been working with. And liability issues will make them even more wary of new solutions. Even if they were to decide to make a change, what about all the existing playgrounds? I don’t think even the most devoted natural playground advocates would suggest that they be discarded on a grand scale.
A simpler point of advocacy may be to focus on the inclusion/addition of natural ELEMENTS. A few logs and boulders, for example, can easily be added to the sea of woodchips that already surrounds most commercial play structures.
If they get a noticeable amount of playtime, well, any reasonable person could then add a sandpit edged with natural rocks. Or an earthen hill beside the sea of woodchips. Or a stump spiral.
The inclusion of natural elements is something for which parents could more easily advocate, or a group of parents even build, especially as an adjunct to an existing traditional playground. And perhaps by small steps they would lead to a better understanding and wider acceptance of a new type of playscape.
I’d especially like to see the big playground charities like Kaboom and Boundless Playgrounds, who support admirable but largely artificial work, facilitate the inclusion of natural elements.

[photos from the previously recommended flickrstream of Tim Gill]

3 Responses to “Natural Playground ELEMENTS – a bit of advocacy”

  1. David said:

    KaBOOM! is focusing efforts to incorporate nature into the playspaces that we are building this year. It is very clear that kids are not exposed to nature as much as they need to be so any natural elements that can be part of the play experience are a good thing. We build outdoor classrooms, plant community gardens, plant trees and native plants that kids are able to smell, touch and taste. Something as simple as having kids plant a seedling and care for it will help to bring nature back to childhood. We will continue to work with communities to bring nature back to play. Our kids need it!

    Here is a link to a pic of recent playground where we brought in natural elements: http://connect.kaboom.org/image/10572

    February 13, 2009 at 7:09 pm

  2. arcady said:

    Thanks, Anita, for your thoughtful comments! You’ve added alot to the discussion.

    January 28, 2009 at 4:40 am

  3. Anita said:

    I agree that we should not advocate to just demolish play equipment that is still very useable. That would be a waste. When my firm LandCurrent designs playgrounds we do look at incorporating existing equipment especially because for the schools and daycare centers we work with these pieces represents large investments.
    Adding some boulders or tree trunks in the “sea of woodchips” also seems a good idea. However, those “seas of woodchips” are generally required in public playgrounds to provide an adequate fall zone around a piece of equipment. One can therefore not add boulders or tree trunks into the fall zone. So while a group of parents can certainly set out to make good changes to a play environment I do recommend some professional help to ensure things happen in a safe manner. Even though I believe that the safety recommendations are sometimes excessive public playgrounds should adhere to them because the one thing that would turn park departments away from Natural Playgrounds is when they are starting to be perceived as unsafe.

    January 27, 2009 at 9:05 pm

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