A Natural Trend
Natural Environment Enhances Playground Designs
By Dawn Klingensmith
In words and actions, those students two years ago sent a loud and clear message about what they want in a playground, and what changes need to happen in the industry to engage and stimulate them. That message still applies. Playgrounds must provide opportunities for dramatic and imaginative play. Playgrounds should allow for and encourage interaction with the natural world. And they should include little nooks where kids can tuck themselves away for solitary or small-group play.
Additionally, involving kids in the design process shows that playgrounds with a single, all-in-one piece of equipment surrounded by wood chips don't really float their boat—but water does. Water and sand features rank high on the list when planners ask children what they want in a playground. Slides and swings are perennial kid-pleasers, but child participants in the design process also envision such playground features as gardens, nature trails and ponds, said Gina Kooiman McLellan, co-author of Designing Outdoor Environments for Children: Landscaping School Yards, Gardens and Playgrounds (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2006). "They are asking us for opportunities to interact with nature."