We’ve been working on a playground design recently, but this isn’t your average run-of-the-mill play space. The clients at this childcare center wanted a natural playground with emphasis on natural materials, sensory experience, and creative play. We love to design these types of spaces. Not only are they great fun to plan, the benefits of time spent in natural spaces are also well documented and include better focus back in the classroom, development of creative thinking skills, greater appreciation for nature, and a decrease in stress.
Our design encourages both active play & passive, creative play. There are all sorts of fun things to hop over, roll down, dig in, and climb through including: boulders, balance logs, tree stump steppers, a low stone wall with a grassy berm, a trike path, and a ‘stick forest’ within a sand pit.
To engage kids’ senses, there is a maze of pavement textures (which includes slate, concrete with nature stamps, wood cookies, soft mulch, and wood planks), plants, and low willow tunnels. There is also a story circle surrounded by soft Pink Muhly grass- a plant that has airy cotton-candy pink flowers that sway in the breeze. There will be raised beds for growing veggies and a butterfly garden patch for observing winged friends.
Plants are an integral part of this playground, and kids are encouraged to interact with them. The plant palette consists of non-toxic, tough plants that provide various sensory experiences. Kid-friendly picks include fuzzy lamb’s ear, fragrant rosemary, fountain grass with fluffy seed heads to rustle in the breeze, and bright flowering perennials to attract butterflies.
Below left: a sampling of textures found in the playground- wood cookies, slate, boulders, lawn, and concrete with nature stamps. Below right: Pink Muhly grass has great color ond soft texture.