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Natural Play Spaces

Play space examples
Examples of possible nature play space features. Images courtesy of Earthscape

Natural play spaces are alternative playgrounds that use natural elements to inspire active and creative outdoor play, and connect people – young and old – to nature. They are made predominately with natural elements such as sand, water, wood, landforms, plants and boulders. These elements allow kids to interpret, on their own, how to play and use the different pieces to discover and create. This type of play space contains as few synthetic/man-made components and structures as possible.

A traditional playground is an outdoor play area usually equipped with standardized play equipment such as swings, slides, monkey bars, and the like. They are typically placed in the centre of a large, defined, flat area filled with approved safety surfacing such as pea gravel or pour-in-place rubber. Most traditional playgrounds encourage active, structured play that exercises the body through physical activity.

Although important, active play is not the only type of play children need. Play spaces that meet the needs of creative, imaginative, nature-based and self-directed play are also vital to children’s cognitive, emotional and social development.

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