Natural Playspaces and Children·s Play and Development An Exploration of 3 Case Studies Child Care NSW Forum

Tess Michaels ± Tessa Rose Playspace and Landscape Design 0416565297

1. A newly designed long day care centre on the north coast of NSW with natural elements included 2. A long day care centre which undertook a partial change to their playspace adding natural components in Sydney, NSW 3. A long day care centre which went from an artificial environment to a natural one in Sydney, NSW

Outcomes ² Play and Development
Staff involvement ² full involvement in the process versus nil Design in isolation - newly built services Focus ² positive and negative

Outcomes ² General
‡Children free to invent their own games ² freedom to play ‡Investigation and discovery without adult intervention (as opposed to interaction) ‡Minimal behaviour issues or reduced playspace incidences whereas previously they occurred daily ‡Children become mindful of varied surfacing² increased challenge and confidence in mastering their environment

Outcomes ² Social Competence

‡Natural spaces created ´hidingµ spots which allowed for more small group and varied social dynamics ‡Sandpits with internal building platforms provided opportunities for building/construction to remain in the sandpit and for children to work individually and cooperatively ‡Deck platforms become gathering spaces ‡Increased opportunity for language and involvement in group play with conversations about the environment and how we respect and take care of it

Outcomes ² Behaviour
‡Natural, calming space ² ease of separation between child and parent ‡Less aggressive behaviours ‡Less aimless and ´boredµ play ‡Reduction of the need to intervene in children·s play and directing them into programmed outdoor experiences because of the lack of a natural environment where children are free to explore ‡Children being aware of and careful of their new outdoor space ² level of ownership ² creating discussion about caring for property and each other

Outcomes ² Extended Project Based Play
‡Construction of the new outdoor environment became its own project ‡Discussion and research of plants during planting ‡Hands on experience with edible garden area ‡Space allows for the extension of varied topics through the inclusion of loose parts

Outcomes ² Creativity
‡More scope, opportunity and choice to extend children·s imaginary play ‡Children were involved in the creation of the new space ‡Decking and amphitheatre provided more dramatic play and dance/movement opportunities ‡Tepees became a fairy garden, sandpit and creek bed a river system

Outcomes ² Bonding and Appreciating Nature
‡Increased learning opportunities to discuss topics such as conservation, seedlings, water flow, evaporation, the environment, climate change, etc ‡Edible garden and worm farm have become social and language areas ‡Appreciation of beauty in vegetation and nature ² both children and adults ‡Children bonded with the new plants as there were no plants before in their space ‡Children have willingly become part of the environment ² putting away provisions, watering, sweeping, monitoring, etc

‡ Reduced stress due to the peaceful and

aesthetic space ‡Role of and managing plants ‡Supervision and interactions ‡Less need to set up equipment ‡´Outdoor space, even in the midst of ´messyµ types of play , with natural elements, retained the ability to look cared forµ ‡Staff interested in looking for equipment and resources to extend children·s play in different ways in their new outdoor space ‡Outdoor program adjustment ‡Risk assessment ‡Director ² with staff resistant to change ² continued to reflect the positive potential for meaningful learning experiences in the new environment which eased concerns

Other Considerations
‡Design is ultimately up to the adults and what they perceive is best ² can differ drastically with what children want in their outdoor play environment ‡Surfacing ² bark chips can be a good alternative ‡Rocks ² there has never been a serious accident involving a rock/boulder ² there has however been many (95%) of accidents on play equipment and softfall ‡Artificial grass versus real grass ‡Water play is important for children ‡Important to include staff, children and families in the whole process, eg: family and staff workshops, children designing their garden, brainstorming

´Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find resources of strength that will endure as long as life lastsµ Rachel Carson

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