Playgrounds have evolved drastically in the last decade, and one of the trends has been incorporating natural materials. A naturalized playground is one that includes a built environment coupled with elements found in nature.
The following excerpt from an International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) article in the spring edition of Play & Playground Magazine discusses the study and benefits behind this naturalized movement.
“The research is clear and definitive – there are a variety of benefits from the inclusion of natural elements. The Natural Learning Initiative… has categorized the benefits into three critical areas for a child’s healthy development: active living; educational success through engagement with diverse, living environments; and healthy social and psychological development through spontaneous creative play.
Take a more specific look at some benefits:
- Naturalized playgrounds support increased diversity in play opportunities helping meet the needs of children in different stages of development, with different learning styles, personality types, friendship patterns, and culture.
- Children have increased opportunities for learning about nature and for more creative and cooperative play.
- Physical activity levels are increased from games that are influenced and stimulated by changes in topography using trees, natural shade, or plants as part of a game or strategy.
- The outdoor environment can be used as an educational resource to support learning through hands-on experiences and by bringing classroom learning outside.
- Changing seasons and natural changes in the elements can contribute to new and unique play experiences.”
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By considering topography, plant material, storm water abatement and natural water features, a play space can be designed that appropriately uses natural elements to benefit children’s growth and development.
Photo courtesy of Play & Playground Magazine.