Tuesday, December 21, 2010

what rusty keeler said: creating playscapes series

If you believe that believe that children should be surrounded by beautiful environments filled with nature, art and love then this series is for you.

Ever since I heard Rusty Keeler, creator of Earthplay and author of Natural Playscapes talk at The Point Preschool about amazing, inspiring, incredible places to learn, grow and play I've been itching to share his tips on how to create the natural playscape of your dreams. 

Let's get started!

Think Back to Your Own Childhood

Rusty had us think back to our favorite outdoor place to play as a child.  What did we remember?  What did we do there?  Who was with us?  What did we smell, touch, feel?  What games did we play there?

What do you remember? 

What do our childhood memories of play tell us?

We discovered that our most memorable childhood play experiences shared a lot in common.  They weren't of playground equipment or asphalt or organised activities.  They were of:  
  • space
  • being hidden
  • freedom
  • absence of adults
  • creating, building
  • imagining
  • creatures
  • exploring, discovering
  • being able to make the space your own
  • sand, dirt, water, mud
  • trees
These are the things we remember and these are the places children want to play.

Your Outdoor Environment

Think about your outdoor environment:  what are the sights, sounds, memories and experiences of the children who play there?

What can they discover?  Are there places to hide?  Things to build with? Places to get dirty, muddy and wet?  Materials to manipulate? 

Can you enhance your playground by including natural play elements?

We have a very important job, and it takes thinking back to our own childhood experiences, and imagining how we can recreate them in safe, meaningful, beautiful ways for the children of today. - Rusty Keeler

Next in the Series

It Starts with You:  We will look at Rusty's tips for making your playscape dreams a reality.


  1. I was lucky enough to hear Rusty once at NAEYC. His slides and words blew me away. So inspiring! Looking forward to reading your notes...

  2. I'm looking forward to your posts - I'm not an educator, but a mum, and professionally (although not for a few years now) a landscape architect. Children's outdoor spaces are a topic dear to my heart, and I agree -it's the 'vauge' and unplanned spaces that really enrich children's play.

  3. Tell us more, tell us more! Can't wait to hear more wisdom gleaned from Rusty. I completely agree with all of this, and we are slowly but surely creating our backyard with it in mind.

  4. What a beautiful spot in the photo with your post. Would still love to play there now (at almost 40!) and probably because was similar to places played as a child. The creating memories part is so true. Think of that each day/week as I do things with our children. What experiences do I want them to have, what do I want them to "learn" as part of the adventure of play/life. Look forward to hearing more of your notes on same

  5. Thanks for sharing & can't wait to hear more!

  6. I went to a workshop on the outdoor classroom and loved every minute of it. I took what I learned back to our director and she would not by into it. I'm not giving up some day we will get through to her and have that outdoor play space I'm dreaming for. Thanks for the post.

  7. What a lovely post.

    I would say that this approach is really important in terms of defining our personal vision for outdoor play and child-friendly spaces. The next trick is to involve the children in our care in developing these.

    So often we look at beautiful outdoor spaces and think "I want that in my place" yet we need to focus on what children want to be able to DO outdoors and not what features to HAVE in the first instance. This takes a bit of a mindset shift but it's very effective.

  8. Just an hour ago I was about to order Rusty's book online from Lady Gowrie... but I noticed the book shop closed for Xmas today! After reading your post, I will still place the order, but they won't re-open until 11 Jan.(Big Sigh!) This will have to be my, last minute holiday reading! The outdoor environment is one area of my programming (and the nature of our preschool environment) that I really intend to work on in 2011.

    I will keep my eye out for your posts! Cheers Karen.

  9. This quote got me: "We are creating children’s experiences —their memories, their childhood." It can be so easy for educators to get caught up in planning lessons to remember that the point of ECE is to build experiences and memories. Beautiful.

  10. The same bit that Rachelle points out jumped out at me too, Jenny. I've never put it into words like this, but that is what we're all about: creating experiences and memories.

    I can't wait to read more of your Rusty posts!