Outdoor Playground Design – Creating a Natural Playscape Part 1

nature themed playground
Encouraging children to interact with nature is a beautiful thing. Of course, only a few generations ago, this wasn’t exactly something you had to do intentionally – it just happened. Day to day life and spending time in nature were one and the same. However, as our modern lifestyles have been industrialized and moved indoors, the idea of getting back out into nature is seen as a novel one. It’s important for people of all ages, but that is particularly true for children.

With this three-part article, we would like to highlight some of the key concepts at play when trying to create a natural playscape. Moving beyond a simple playground with manufactured equipment, a natural playscape integrates the playground design into the surrounding environment. This can be a challenging task, but it is capable of creating an amazing space when done correctly. Of course, while the idea of ‘getting back to nature’ is appealing, this is still a project that needs to fit in with the realities of the modern world. So, in the end, the task here is to balance all of the competing interests and requirements to come away with something that children can love for years to come.

The General Concept

So, what do we mean by a ‘natural playscape’? Well, it’s pretty much exactly as it sounds – a play area which is designed to be as natural as possible. Of course, nature itself doesn’t typically present play areas that cater to the needs of kids – and the security expectations of adults – so it is necessary to create this kind of area using careful planning and forethought.

While we are all in favor of helping kids enjoy nature, we also understand that simply placing the kids in a field of grass isn’t going to occupy their attention for very long. Ultimately, it is the integration of nature and modern play equipment which will likely be a winning formula.

Picking Your Space

Perhaps the single most difficult part of this entire project will be picking the space that is going to be used for the natural playscape. If you have a significant amount of property to work with, there may be a few sites that you can consider. To narrow down your choices, think first about the amount of work that will be required to turn a given site into a playscape. Locations which are going to require moving a lot of dirt and clearing brush in order to prepare them for the play area will not be ideal. Some prep work is inevitable but picking a site that requires too much work is going to take a big chunk out of your budget. With any luck, you will be able to find a spot within the available property that is well-suited to a playscape and won’t require significant landscaping to prepare.

To continue on with this discussion of natural playscapes, please check out the second post in this three-part series, coming up next month!