Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nature-Based Playground

I have been doing a lot of research on children and nature lately, mostly stemmed by my interest in the lack of children playing outside in my neighborhood. Even on a beautiful, sunny day, you can hear a pin drop. I've seen many books written on this subject: "Where have all the Children Gone?" , "Last Child in the Woods"...

The moment I realized this was a severe problem was when I brought a group of children outside to play on the first day of school. Two of the children came outside and just stood there. They had NO IDEA how to play outdoors. I used the Montessori approach to show them (one age 3, the other age 4) how to kick a ball, run up and down a hill, go down a slide...They had never played outside or gone for a walk outdoors. This new generation is desperately in need of more unstructured free time outside in order to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I read an article recently in a Montessori publication about this topic. The writer interviewed an 8-year-old boy and asked him, "Would you prefer to play indoors or outdoors?" He responded with this jaw-dropping response, "I'd rather play inside because that's where all the electrical outlets are." Oh my.

Cheryl Charles, President of Children & Nature Network, reports that "Children are smarter, cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors."

After coming to these conclusions, I'm going to do my best to incorporate a Nature-Based Playground into our new location. I found a company who specializes in planning and implementing these types of play spaces, however, that type of expense is way out of our budget. I did find several pictures that depict my vision. I've recruited some family and friends to help us make this vision a reality. If any of our current or potential families feel they can offer time, materials or creative ideas, please contact me. It is so important for us to get our children back outside.

The company that created this beautiful children's retreat is called Natural Playgrounds. Couldn't you envision the children using their imagination more and enjoying their natural surroundings in an environment like this?

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