I agree with this move as traditional playgrounds do not lead to imaginative play anywhere near as effectively. In my opinion, it is better to use natural surroundings (e.g. going into a sensory garden) than using restrictive playground equipment. Using the environment for outside play encourages hiding, balancing, creativity and resilience.
Using natural surroundings instead of traditional playground structures also addresses the quality issue that has plagued preschools for the last 15 years. Plastic weathers and needs to be replaced within a few years as well as just generally looking aged. It is also more affordable (both in the short and long term)! For example, you can prop up a log for the children to walk along for balance. This is much more sensible than spending money on metal trestles that strive for the same learning outcome.
A natural playground allows children to experience their environment and be introduced to concepts of sustainability.
When redesigning your playground, involve your families and community. You would be surprised at the contacts people have and their willingness to donate both materials and time. Use wood, logs, plants and rocks to make dry creek beds etc. Children love to be involved in creating a vegetable garden.
When you purchase playground equipment, make sure it satisfies the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines.
There are some aspects of preschool playgrounds that are difficult to make from natural materials. I have included the most common below, alongside some recommendations. Just click on the picture if you’d like to view it on Amazon.
We can all recall the fun we had sliding down a slide as children. It is wonderful to watch the joy a child experiences by continually climbing up and sliding down. This gross motor activity builds children’s confidence, muscle strength, balance and spatial awareness. It can be used in imaginative play, as a prop in a bear hunt or a treasure hunt.
What I like about this slide is that it can be easily integrated into a natural playground as you can attach it to a natural frame, such as timber, or it can sit carved into a grassy hill.
We need to protect the little ones from the harsh rays of the sun as they are exploring the great outdoors. Even though most elements of the playground can be natural, we can’t always rely on trees for consistent shade cover! This is an affordable, natural looking shade cover that can provide shade over cubby houses, swing sets, climbing areas or quiet areas.
I like this Tee Pee as it is affordable and can be used indoors and outdoors. It can be used as a quiet reading area, a prop in dramatic play, within home corner or in teaching about Native Americans.
Dance Stage / Theater Area
Children love to perform and dance. They love to dress up, especially in heeled shoes where they can hear themselves tapping away on a hard surface.
Some props that I usually add to this area are:
- Musical instruments
- CD player
- Mirror, so they children can see themselves – just like a dance studio!
- Wide variety of dress-up clothes
It can be used as a home corner if the grass is too wet. The floor is portable but can be conveniently set up ready for those busy days.
A trampoline is such a fun way to exercise! By using a trampoline children are learning to balance, to jump with both feet and improve spatial awareness. The handlebar on this trampoline can be removed as children gain competence and confidence.
If you have photographs of a natural playground you have created, please get in touch. I would love to profile you on TicTacTeach!
I have put together the Ultimate Guide to Setting Up Your Preschool Classroom which contains everything you could ever possibly need for setting up your classroom – all of the above plus much more.