Problem Solver - August 2014
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Create a Playscape With a Natural Feel

Children are spending about half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago, and at the same time, kids between 8 and 18 get more than seven hours of screen time in a typical day. The obvious negative impact: a dramatic increase in childhood obesity—and all the health issues that go along with it. Parks and playgrounds can be a great way to get kids outside, helping them build fitness habits, boost creativity, learning and much more.

Q: We are concerned that children aren't getting enough time in nature. What can we do to help grow their interest in the outdoors?

A: You've taken on a great mission. With more and more screen time and less time outdoors, many children are experiencing diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, that once afflicted adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children need 60 minutes of unstructured free play daily to maintain healthy minds and bodies, and playgrounds are a great way to give them that time. Well-designed play spaces will boost kids' activity levels, but you can take things one step further and turn your playground into a pathway to nature. The demand for nature-inspired play equipment has increased dramatically across the country, and provides a great way to simultaneously boost children's fitness levels and their interest in the great outdoors.

Q: We'd love to build a play space that blends into the natural environment. What should we look for?

A: You can find nature-inspired play events that will fit right into the natural setting of your park or site.

Many of these events are made from glass fiber reinforced concrete, and are then hand-painted to give them realistic colors and textures reminiscent of rocks and tree bark. Look for lifelike treehouse designs that encourage creative play, or rock-climbing events and crawl tunnels. Play events can be designed in a multitude of configurations, so your playground will not be a been-there-done-that experience.

What's more, because they are designed and manufactured by playground experts, you'll know safety is a top priority.

Q: We're ready to get going on our natural playground, but budgets are tight. Is there a way to start now and add onto our playground over time?

A: The great thing about working with experienced play equipment manufacturers is they're ready to help you get started, and they'll be able to help you expand when you're ready. You could begin now with a treehouse or clubhouse type component with a couple of climbers and slides, then expand over time to add platforms, panels, rock-climbing events and more. Playground professionals will also help you brainstorm ideas for fundraising and getting the best value for your money.

Q: As we encourage children to get involved in the natural world, is there a way to also protect nature with equipment that is more eco-friendly?

A: Talk to your playground manufacturer about their sustainability measures. Start by looking for a manufacturer that has earned ISO 14001 Certification, which requires policy commitments, including compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Look for a manufacturer that uses recycled and recyclable materials in their products. Both the steel used for supports and the plastic used for platforms and roofs can be made from recycled materials. Most importantly, by creating a natural playspace that encourages children to get outdoors, you'll be encouraging a new generation to get involved in caring for and protecting the environment.


BCI Burke

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