Friday, June 17, 2011

Ideas for adding natural elements to your outdoor play space - Part 1

You all know how I love natural play spaces for children.  Research shows that natural environments are beneficial to children in many ways - or as my friend Marghanita Hughes more poetically puts it:
"When children and nature mix, something magical happens – every child deserves that Magic!"
So it goes without saying that I am thrilled our new Early Years Learning Framework agrees:
Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.
They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.  Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework, 2009

There are many ways you can incorporate natural elements into your backyard or playground.  Over the next few days lets look at some ideas from around the blogosphere to help you dream your very own natural playscape:

Giant tree stumps form the border around Teacher Tom's new sandpit, creating stepping stones, seats or a handy play surface:

Image via Teacher Tom
Arranging stumps at different heights around a sandpit can create an extra element of challenge:

image from Miller Company Landscape Architects
Structures like willow huts, sunflower houses or bean teepees create natural hideouts for children, but how about super sizing this concept and going for a living tunnel:

Image via Tree Inspired
Or how about creating a simple frame for plants to climb over, creating an irresistible outdoor fort:

Image via Ohdeedoh
This simple arrangement of logs forms an inviting meeting space, story telling area or performance space:

Image via Tree Inspired
Or on a smaller scale:

For more outdoor playscape inspiration:

Do you have an image or idea that you would like to share?
I'd love to hear from you and share it with our readers.  You can leave a comment below, or email me using the contact form.

Stay tuned for more natural playscape inspiration tomorrow.


  1. I love those low hanging bushes, I'm sure the kids love that

  2. These are beautiful. We are going to try build a Willow tunnel :-)

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  4. Very good, I like the what you did with the logs to make a play area for the children.

  5. I'm planning on a beanpole teepee. Wish me luck!