Research shows that – when given opportunity – children choose to and enjoy playing in natural environments and with natural elements.
They offer children a multiplicity of encounters and sensations to experience, a diversity of topography and texture to play with and an assortment of child-sized spaces to explore and inhabit. They inspire a sense of wonder with the wild world, which may last a lifetime.
Children also have strong positive sensitivity towards play features created from natural materials. For instance, the look and feel of wood is often preferred to plastic; it feels natural and creates a sense of well-being. Natural materials are also more likely to be perceived by children as free from overt adult agendas; and provide open-ended invitations to play.
Therefore, eco-friendly play children’s areas and natural playgrounds are in themselves sustainable in the best sense of the word: that children will continue to enjoy them over and over again – maintaining their interest and naturally managing their evolving needs and desires. Such natural playgrounds offer the playful possibilities of now, and the promise of more to come….
At TouchWood, nature provides both inspiration and materials in creating bespoke children’s playgrounds. As our carefully-chosen company name suggests, we believe that children benefit both physically and psychologically from direct contact with natural materials, such as trees and wood.
Building playgrounds with natural materials is also sustainable in several other important and interconnected ways:
- They can be very long lasting and hard wearing, e.g. fallen trees and stone boulders. As such, these types of natural features also require minimal maintenance.
- Other features wear naturally in response to children’s play, providing new opportunities as they change – e.g. the paths and playful routes that children create themselves on earth mounds and amongst growing vegetation.
- Less-hard wearing materials, such as wood, biodegrade naturally at the end of their life-span and don’t leave behind any damaging or unhealthy residues.
- Natural materials also generally have lower impact and costs in terms of energy expended during production.
Nature knows best…
At TouchWood we believe that eco-friendly play areas can, and should, work alongside nature in providing sustainable play opportunities for children over time. In particular, growing vegetation and its associated materials add enormously to the play value of a space. Such nature-friendly features provide a wide variety and abundance of self-replenishing loose parts, including: sticks, twigs, leaves, dried grass, stems and stalks, pine needles, petals, moss, bark, pebbles, earth, seeds, cones, feathers, fur, empty shells etc. In addition, natural loose parts can be directly added to the play space (e.g. sand, sea shells, bark chips etc) or even created in situu as natural by-products during our onsite manufacture and construction process (wooden posts, tree rings, cobb blocks, wood shavings etc.).
The more heavily managed and manicured a site is, the fewer playful opportunities are likely to be perceived by children. Therefore, an element of ‘natural scruffiness’ – with ragged edges, winding paths and unmown grassy areas – offer a far greater possibility for children to interact playfully with the space, with less fear of “doing the wrong thing”.
Our bespoke designs complement existing vegetation with sensitively planned new plantings to enhance the play value of the site and fill the gap of missing opportunities. Our aim is that playgrounds are built to last a lifetime and are sustainable in every possible way.