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.
Ways to Involve Children in Planning a Natural Playscape
The playscape planning and creation can be a big part of your curriculum and the children should be involved each step of the way. More than simply asking them what do you want on your playground, immerse them in the idea of natural playscapes and the materials that are used to make them.
20 ways to Create Play Environments for the Soul by Rusty Keeler
1. Ask them what they want
What do the children want to do, see, play with and experience in the play space? You could start by asking:
- What are your favorite things to do outside?
- What don’t you like about the playground?
- Where are your favourite outside places?
- What do those places look like?
Children at Olive Phillips Kindergarten used stories and poetry when planning their cubby. Image: Eco Cubby
Take the children on trips to local parks or local nature spots. What do they like to play with there? What things would they like to bring back to their own playground?
Children at the University of Melbourne Learning Centre went for a walk to a nearby river bank to investigate natural building materials. Image: Eco Cubby
|Our kids visited the pond in the primary playground to gather ideas for their own pond.|
4. Sensory Play
Set up the sensory table with earth materials such as topsoil, sand, smooth rocks, twigs, branches, water, mud and leaves. Talk about the natural materials in a natural playscape.
Here children created dream small worlds using sand, glass stones, twigs, shells and other natural materials as well as the time to play, experience, create, imagine and explore. Then they drew what they had created onto paper, generated a list of materials they would need for the playscape, visited the local building supply and chose materials for the new playscape.
|Image: Eco Cubby|
6. Model Making
|Image: Eco Cubby|
|Model of veggie patch. Image: Eco Cubby|
|Model by primary aged students. Image: Eco Cubby|
|Our kids measured out the desired size of our dirt patch with their bodies.|
Children at the University of Melbourne Learning Centre used milk cartons to measure out their cubby. Image: Eco Cubby
|Gorgeous 'friendship poles' painted by the children at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning.|
Places also become special when we have a hand in creating them and caring for them. When children help look after a garden, paint a mural, create a sculpture or put a hand-print in a stepping-stone, they feel connected to a place.Children’s ideas about their play environment may be the most important and enlightening advice you can receive about site design. Evergreen