Today we went for a family outing to a local city park. It has recently received a new shiny playground with slides, climbers, monkey bars galore. As I watch the kids scramble around on it I think back to a time when I was a child and we used to go down to the small stream near our house and play similar games in the trees and hilly banks of the stream. That stream is no longer there due to housing development in the area and since we live in the city, there isn't any real places I can go with Hana and Kai to just play in nature like that. Shiny plastic playgrounds on woodchips are the only option.
I wonder why the cities around us need to always put in this type of playground when they are revamping a aging play structure or creating a new park. Don't they know that there are wonderful options that are both easier on the budget as well as easier on the environment - not to mention a unique and cool playspace! I am talking about 'natural playgrounds'. I was first introduced to this concept at a conference I went to for work that was based on the work by Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods. Here I met the founders of Evergreen and Beinenstock two Canadian natural playspace creators and designers. The work they do is both inspirational and common sense! Basically they create a playground made from natural materials and designed on natural elements such as hills, streams, meadows, trees, willow tunnels etc.
Here is an example of what it can look like:
Now I don't know about you, but this type of playspace seems to make sense to me for so many reasons! We all know that kids don't need fancy new shiny toys, they like the box just as much! These playgrounds are kind of like the "box" so to speak. They are cheap to install and maintain and the kids love them. It is us parents that need to look at the play value here and not just see a space with a hill with a slide stuck into it. We are easily dazzled by the brightly coloured play structures and "safe" playgrounds, but really.... think about it. I would hazard to bet that the injuries sustained on a hill or from the top of a tree root are far far less then those from toppling off the highest point of a playground about 9 feet in the air!
I encourage parents who are like-minded to take a look at the Richard Louv site http://richardlouv.com/