Playgrounds aren’t just about entertainment – they’re a key part of a child’s development. From confronting danger with climbing structures to social skills garnered by interaction in a play environment, playing outside helps children grow.
Natural playgrounds and adventure playgrounds, built using wood, stone, sand and water, are a growing trend thanks to their sustainability and their suitability in a wide variety of landscapes. Put simply, they blend more seamlessly into different environments – from National Trust parks to schoolyards. Even things like mud kitchens or forest schools. My son’s school is the latter and it is just amazing how much he learns from doing it each week. The natural elements of playing outdoors can massively benefit children’s development, which is why having some form of natural playground or natural play is a really good idea. Here’s how:
Playground design that uses some fixed or unnatural equipment can limit development. So it does encourage their development when they play in a more natural environment. If our children become bored because they can’t use anything fun as they play, then accidents are more likely to occur. So providing versatility in play is quite key.
9. Visual Preference
If a play area is made from natural materials, then it can encourage the use of imagination and it also encourages children to interact with it all too. So learning while they are playing, which is what it is all about. Again, boredom can cause accidents when our children are playing. So if a playground looks appealing to kids, then it is much more likely to keep them safe. Having more of a natural play area has also been found to help improve children’s socialisation, as well as cognitive awareness and imagination skills.
8. Construction Skills
With natural playground, comes the fact that it is generally going to have been made up of things that can be picked up and moved, like rocks, stones and logs, for example. These can often be complimented alongside buckets, or rags of fabric that can help children to learn some basic construction skills. Natural playgrounds like this, helps to encourage creative minds by using these different and varied elements. Digging in the sand or creating dams when playing with water and stones provides so much interest for children.
7. Improved Physical Fitness
Because a natural playground can be more varied in terms of terrain and different heights and levels, it can have a great impact on a child’s physical fitness. It could be climbing a wall, jumping or climbing over logs or moving objects around; their physical fitness will get better.
6. Social Development
Because of the nature of natural playgrounds, it makes it much more social for our children. They can work in teams to build structures or get together to make mud pies in a mud kitchen. These are all much more social than a traditional playground that doesn’t allow for too much team play or working together.
5. Cognitive Development
It has been shown that how a playground is designed is mega important in pretend play and creative thinking. However, the creativity can vary as a result of playground design. More pretend play and increased level of creativity with our children can occur as a result of more contemporary natural playgrounds compared to traditional designs.
Playgrounds in a traditional setting are much more insular and competitive than a natural playground. It is all about competition with them and who is the fastest or strongest, or going the highest. Natural playgrounds allow opportunities to be creative as they play, and work together and alongside others.
3. Time at Play
It has been shown that when children play in natural settings, they spend more time actively playing as it is much more engaging for them. This increase in playtime has the additional benefit of providing better physical fitness. More time playing is good for them in many different ways!
2. Teacher Interaction
A study has shown that teachers in schools were much more likely to help and get involved in a child’s development when the setting and equipment is high quality. So natural settings will help with this for sure.
1. Confronting Risk
Being safe when playing is important. But we need our kids to learn from a little risk from time to time. Things like jumping or climbing, which are much more prevalent in natural playgrounds, are good for children to experience a little risk with. They can assess the risk and make decisions, as well as push some of their own limits.