Could having a natural playground be the best fit for your family?
From being a minimalist parent to being a helicopter parent, there are so many different ways to raise children. While there are different styles of parenting, there is no set way that is the best way to do it. The same goes for your child playtime. For some people, going out to traditional parks and playground is what meets your child needs best. However, for other parents, a natural playground might be a better option.
If you and your child are interested in exploring the awesomeness that natural playgrounds provide, then this article is for you. Today, we are going to go over everything you need to know about natural playgrounds like where to find them. Not only that but if you are interested in building your own, we will go over some great tips to keep in mind. Let's get started!
What Is a Natural Playground?
If you drive by any park or school, you are bound to see a children's playground. Traditional children's playgrounds are comprised of bright colors, metal, plastic, and mulch. When it comes to a natural playground, all of those materials are eliminated. Instead, natural playgrounds focus on using nature and intentional landscaping to create intriguing play centers for children. While this might sound like a brand new concept in child play, chances are you have grown up playing on one. If you have ever climbed a tree, jumped in leaves, trapped animals, or have had fun outdoors in general, then you have played in a natural playground.
Now, the main theme of a natural playground is pulling out the natural elements of any environment. Once you have these elements, the goal is to arrange them so that they can stimulate a child physically and mentally. Although natural playgrounds use nature, they are still as fun if not more fun than traditional playgrounds. Overall, natural playgrounds are great ways to get a fun workout in for your child.
Many times, natural playgrounds can be just as physically challenging when compared to a traditional playground. Along with that, when it comes to many natural playgrounds especially public ones, strict playground safety rules are still intact. The design that goes into a natural playground is done with careful attention to detail and safety in the same manner that is considered when building a traditional playground.
Where Can I Find Natural Playgrounds?
Natural playgrounds are starting to make a splash all across the U.S. So, chances are if you haven't seen one yet, you will soon. At the moment, you can find natural playgrounds in both urban and rural settings. It's not uncommon for natural playgrounds to be found more in bigger cities as this is where they generally started popping up. There are many schools and daycare centers that have also started doing away with traditional playgrounds and implementing natural playgrounds instead. So if you ever drive by a school and notice a strange fixture made out of wood, then you are probably looking at a natural playground.
The Components of a Natural Playground
Just like parenting, there is no set rule of what your natural playground should contain. There are some things however that you will find similar within natural playgrounds. Here a list of some of the most popular things you can expect to see in a natural playground.
1. An Outdoor M
Many natural playgrounds include stations that allow children to explore with music. Often times, this looks like having a wooden framework that houses chimes, metal, or other instruments that you can cling together to make noises. Outdoor instruments allow children to interact with nature to see the type of sounds that come out of it. By mixing a variety of wood and metal, you can come up with some pretty neat music stations.
2. Climbing structure
Oftentimes, natural playgrounds will include some sort of wooden structure. Whether it's a log climber or some type of boulder. A big focus of natural playgrounds is to allow children to test their limits by including an object that allows them to climb.
3. Lots and Lots of Logs
Any natural playground will always include lots of tree logs and tree stumps. Logs are great for children to explore with because there are so much you can do with them. Some natural playgrounds like to use logs as seating arrangements. It is not uncommon to find a circular seating arrangement that mimic the Socratic Circle seating arrangement. Logs are also great tools to walk on or climb on. Oftentimes, natural playgrounds will include stations that test your balance via the use of logs.
4. Climbing Mesh Ropes
Oftentimes, you will see that natural playgrounds might include canopies of strung together rope to create a mesh pattern. The mesh rope can be used for all different types of things. However, the mesh rope is commonly used as a climbing station that will test your child's climbing and balancing ability. Kids love getting tied up in mesh ropes because it allows them to figure out how to navigate their way out.
5. Flower and Vegetable Gardens
Many natural playgrounds will include some sort of garden. Gardens allow children the opportunity to see nature at its finest. Often times, these gardens will include fruit or vegetables. This allows children to see how their food grows in real time. Along with this, many natural playgrounds encourage children to foster and grow the vegetation. When it is ready to be picked, there is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that children encounter because they were invested in making their garden grow.
6. Colorful Walkways Are Pathways
Many natural playgrounds if not all natural playgrounds include some sort of pathway. Many times, times this pathway will be colorful and will take children on a stroll through the park. Usually, the path will lead to interactive locations of the park like the playground garden. These pathways are great for so many reasons. For starters, pathways are especially important for young children who are learning how to walk. These pathways will help them focus their walking so that they do not wander but instead contained.
7. Animal Tracks
It is not uncommon for a natural playground to include artificial animal tracks. These animal tracks tend to usually lead children to an area that would have artifact specific to that animal. Following animal tracks allows children the opportunity to see what it is like to be out in the wild. Not only that but following animal tracks will enable children to generate questions that will help them learn about their environment.
Tips for Building Your Own Natural Playground
Much like choosing not to parent the same way other people parent, you may not want to choose the same natural playground as other parents either. When it comes to building a natural playground, you will want to build something that is unique and specific to your own child. Before you do that you will need to consider what your child needs and what their interests are. For example, If your child shows a deep interest in music, then focusing on music and including plenty of music centers in your natural playground will be a must. here are some tips to get started with if you are interested in building your own natural playground.
1. Find a Location
If you are building a natural playground for your children, then chances are you will likely be building it at your own home. Focus on building your natural playground either on the backyard or front yard depending on how private you want it to be. Once you figured out the location, literally map out and take measurements to see if you will be able to make the workspace work for what you have in mind.
2. How Much Will It Cost?
Surprisingly, building a natural playground is not as expensive as you might think. Especially if you are building a personalized natural playground. To get your hands on some equipment you will first want to start with what you already have on hand. If you have any logs or stumps on your property, these are good things to use at starting points. If you would like to use more logs or stumps, the next place to check would be online. Sites like Craigslist or Let Go can be great recourses. If you live in a rural area, chances are your bound to find someone who is looking to get rid of some wooden logs. This can be a great way to get your hands on some cheap material, thus limiting your costs.
If you need more material, then making your way over to your local home improvement store will be your next step. Some material that you should get from home improvement stores include anything that incorporates wood. Wooden posts and rope will be your best friends because they will help you create many of the stations that you will need.
3. Design With Your Child
One of the best ways to put your natural playground together is by encouraging your child (or children) to help. When children help, not only will they get a sense of contribution, but they can tell you what they want. They can help customize the playground so that it meets their needs. If you do want your children to help, then be sure to involve them in any way you can. Whether it is designing the different stations or helping you fasten the different stations together. However you choose, you are sure not to go wrong by have your child by your side when you design it.
Benefits of Having a Tangible Playground
Lastly, there are so many good reasons for having a natural playground instead of a traditional one. Here are some of the top reasons more and more parents are seeking out natural playgrounds for their children.
- Natural playgrounds allow children the opportunity to see the beauty and the wonder of nature. All while allowing them to be physically and mentally challenged by it.
- Natural playgrounds have a low carbon footprint. The materials used to build a natural playground are not made in a manufacturing company. Not only that, but you will typically be able to find everything you need to build one locally. This means that any repairs that you need to make on your natural playground will be easy in terms of finding your assembly parts.
- Because you can find everything you need locally to build a natural playground, these playgrounds tend to be more sustainable.
- Finally, natural playgrounds are well, more fun for children. They have a unique design from traditional playgrounds that will pique their curiosity and interest in no time.
Children's play is always developing. But one thing is for sure, children will learn best through authentic play. If you are considering a natural playground, then you are exposing your child to a range of play options. This opportunity and range of play options will allow your child to not only see the world differently, but it will allow them to gain the whole new chapter of knowledge that they would not have otherwise had.
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