Natural Playgrounds versus Structured Playgrounds

Natural playgrounds win every time!

If you don’t have a natural area adjacent to your backyard or aren’t comfortable sending your child off to play there unsupervised, the next best thing is a ‘natural’ playground. This growing trend in play structures uses natural materials and shapes to create a landscape that allows for creative use on the part of the child. Elements in a natural playground may include boulders, log tunnels, stumps, tree houses mud kitchens or sand areas. They are meant to challenge children and ignite their imaginations.

The unstructured natural play that was once inherent in childhood is becoming scarce as children spend more and more time in front of screens (according to Common Sense Media, kids between 0 and 8 years old spend 2 1/3 hours on media, and 8 to 12-year-olds spend 6 hours a day on screen time!) and in organized activities. With so much structure and programming in their lives today, children benefit from being allowed free range play, without prescribed direction, to explore and engage all of their senses. A miniature metal car in a conventional playground only serves one purpose and engages children for a shorter time frame. In a play environment composed of natural materials, a log can become a balance beam, a horse, a car, or a surfboard (to name a few).

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