Natural Playgrounds Taking Root
The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” will have a natural playground in 2014! Research (C&NN) shows that combining fresh air, natural materials and power of play leads to physical and mental health benefits for children. Natural Playgrounds are popping up in backyards, schools, nature centers, childcare centers, and churches across the state. This year the Eco-Experience area at the Minnesota State Fair will have one too!
When little people can explore puddles, sand, roots, shoots, and fruits in their own play space they begin to experience Earth’s systems working together. What kid isn’t more likely to eat a vegetable they have grown themselves? Earth’s main systems (water, air, land, and living things) are interconnected and humans are impacted by and impacting them all the time. As a parent and a teacher, I see natural playgrounds as a way to support our children in understanding nutrition, the importance of questions, eating local foods, thinking in systems, stewardship of natural resources, and learning through play.
What makes a natural playground different? Growing Green Hearts knows that natural playgrounds do all of these things and more:
- Stimulate all of the senses
- Support learning of science with observations galore
- Provide safety with ground-based play spots
- Engage kids in exploration of plants, trees, rocks, soil, water, air and animals
- Encourage building, digging, engineering, and planting
- Drive active thinking with loose parts like buckets, wheels, stackables
- Spark dramatic play with spread out places
- Support reflective thinking with quiet or secret spaces
If at the state fair grounds a nature play spot for thousands to explore can be set up for ten days, it must be easy, right? If you are interested in exploring natural playgrounds through a consultation or workshop with your staff or community group, contact Heidi at Growing Green Hearts. In addition to teacher trainings, Growing Green Hearts would love to coach your community group in creating a low-cost kid-centered natural playground.
Play. Learn. Love.