Learning By Nature was fortunate to attend an international gathering of natural playground professionals in Germany and Denmark in 2010. Our small group was hosted by natural play designer and thought leader Frode Svane of Norway.
His enthusiasm, designs and network of fellow designers in and around Europe, the UK and USA are utterly mind blowing. These images are from some of our site visits during our study and tour. Schools, municipalities and housing projects alike, embraced the value of nature and free play for children. Core to most project designs and/or installation and long term sustainability is community engagement.
The inherent nature of the culture in these communities embraces play, exploration, creativity and risk as integral components to childhood learning and development. Some of these designs may not pass our stringent playground safety standards in the USA, however they are included here for inspiration and a glimpse into what IS possible and what IS truly engaging for all ages and abilities.
Also to note, these natural playspaces, may look different than what our eyes may be used to. The focus is on play value not appearance. Many playgrounds offered nooks and spaces with loose parts and vegetation to encourage unprescribed creative freeplay- an essential component to healthy childhood development.
Unique playful nooks and components also offer a variety of risky looking play (that is, risky to some of our adult eyes). It is believed and shown that children exposed to reasonable and well designed risky in play spaces are more cautious and apt to have less accidents. This may seem counter intuitive to our litigious laden society here in the USA, however these findings have been documented by numerous studies and reports. Children tend to regulate their behavior and work together to reduce risk and challenge themselves safely. For more information on risk and play read this great white paper from Tim Gill, leader in the risk-play industry.
Enjoy the images and the read!