Natural Play Equipment – blending in with the environment

Monday, 30th November 2015 10:00 am

Nature is important to the development of children in every major way; intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically (Kellert, 2005).

‘A happy child is a muddy child’, may be a phrase coined by educationalists who value the benefits of natural play,  but is not always appreciated by parents who have to think about the washing.  Children can enjoy playing in a muddy puddle for hours but will get bored going around an amusement park after five minutes.  Nature fascinates and compels children to use their imagination and provides many play opportunities.  It is not always easy for children to play in fields and wasteland so playground designers have incorporated natural play equipment into their designs.

Playing in a natural world

Natural play equipment can change the landscape of a playground so that children have the opportunity to enjoy playing in the natural world.  Play England have produced an extremely detailed report on the importance of natural play.  In the report they outlined how difficult it often is for children to access natural play environments and that too much adult intervention is often cited as the cause.  Therefore it is important to bear in mind that playgrounds should include elements of nature in them so that children can, ‘, go back to basics and make up their own games without always relying on the structured playground equipment.

Benefits of connecting with nature

We are all aware that outdoor play is fundamentally important to the health and wellbeing of our children but often don’t know the exact reason why.  Here is a list of how natural play can benefit everyone:-

  • Supports creativity and problem solving.
  • Enhances cognitive abilities.
  • Improves academic performance.
  • Increases physical activity.
  • Improves eyesight.
  • Improves social interaction.
  • Reduces stress.

(Natural Learning Initiative)

Disappearing play spaces

Most adults are fortunate to remember fields, lanes or wastelands that they used to play in without prying parents.  There was no need for natural play equipment then because these natural play spaces were used alongside the traditional playgrounds with slides, swings and climbing frames. Sadly green spaces have made way for housing estates and children are much more restricted on how far they can travel from home due to an increase in traffic.  Children are also preoccupied with the latest computer game so they are often reluctant to play outside without encouragement.

Natural play equipment


Playground designers and planners are addressing the balance between structured and natural play equipment by landscaping playgrounds more naturally.  Natural play equipment includes; bridges, mounds, boulders, trees, plants, edgeways, paths, decking and natural surfaces.  The purpose of natural play equipment is to allow children to explore natural shapes, such as mounds and tunnels, as well and incorporating plants and trees into their imaginative games.

If you would like to find out more about our natural play equipment please contact us here and we would be delighted to offer advice.