Problem Solver - August 2013
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Create a Safe Nature Play Area

Nature play has seen a huge surge of interest over the past several years. Many experts acknowledge that children gain enormous benefits—physical, cognitive and emotional—from interacting with the great outdoors. But not all children have such easy access to nature. You can create a safe play area that combines natural-looking play events with traditional play structures to bring safe nature play to kids in every community.

Q: How can we combine natural play with a conventional playground?

A: You can find nature-themed elements such as logs, rocks and ropes that can be integrated with your playground structure to provide a natural play experience. Kids will love to climb, jump, crawl and run—creating their own adventures as they find new ways to interact with play events.

Look for natural-looking elements that combine high-quality materials and top-notch design to create affordable and low-maintenance solutions.

Well-constructed play elements will feature natural-feeling textures and materials that are safe and durable.

Q: What kinds of nature-based elements should we consider for our playground?

A: You want to provide play events that give children a chance to move their entire bodies through a wide range of motions. Ropes, climbing rocks and logs provide a variety of textures and options that you can incorporate in myriad ways.

Ropes should be built with secure steel cores, and should be easy to maintain. You can find a wide range of ropes, nets and bridges to really make your playground unique. A rope bridge can provide a linking piece between one play event and another. Nets and webs can provide a sturdier climbing environment that younger children will love. These types of play events help children develop social skills through group play at the same time they are building physical strength and coordination through climbing.

Look for large rock-like climbing pieces to help anchor your space and provide an exciting tower. Children of all abilities can enjoy the various configurations of these climbing pieces. Look for rocks made with a smoother grip for a safer climbing experience.

Smaller boulder and logs can provide a close-to-the-ground path that children can use as an alternate route across the playground. Use these elements to link the larger play events in your play space, and be sure to add a variety of heights, shapes and climbing experiences. Look for logs designed to look like natural tree logs, with realistic bark texture.

Kids won't be able to resist the exploration opportunities your playground offers when you combine all of these elements for an adventure in the great outdoors.

Q: We're concerned about safety. Are these natural-looking and nature-based play events safe for kids?

A: Real rocks and logs can present safety issues, and many natural elements don't last very long before the weather wears them away. This is where manufactured play elements can really make a difference. But the ways your play equipment is manufactured can have a big impact on safety and durability.

You can find nature-based play events manufactured with a solid, synthetic sandstone made from Portland cement, fibers, sand and proprietary additions. This surface has a beautiful, naturally variegated surface, with authentic hairline cracks that make it look like real rock. But at the same time, it provides a non-abrasive climbing grip.