Connecting children and nature through play

“Let nature be your teacher”

– Wordsworth

Observe almost any group of children playing in a natural setting and you will see inventiveness, creativity and stimulated imaginations.

Free, self-directed play in nature is vital to the development of healthy, happy human beings and for the last three decades we have devoted ourselves to designing spaces where children’s instinctive play needs are truly satisfied.

We want to work with you to provide the best possible play opportunities for current and future generations.

Providing a wide range of play experiences

Children need a wide range of self-directed play experiences.

The average playground is great for gross motor skill development – climbing, balance, etc. – but this approach fails to understand the importance of play in child development. Play is a chance for young animals, and thus young humans, to learn and rehearse the skills they will need for the rest of their lives, and to do so in a secure environment, where mistakes will have few consequences.

To make sure we provide for children’s varied play needs we draw on extensive research in the field of play, in particular the work on play types.

For the purpose of our designs we focus on 6 types of play: exploratory, physical, social, loose parts, imaginative and quiet play. These play types also serve as guides for clients to assess existing playground features and identify gaps in provision. We design our play spaces in ways that allow several play needs to be met simultaneously.

Observing nature’s wisdom

“The essence of play is that the sequence of actions is fluid and scattered. Play is at its core a behavioural kaleidoscope”
– Henig

As a species we evolved in nature’s fluid, cyclical, unpredictable settings where there are no straight lines or hard edges. To this day children’s play echoes and thrives in this original setting. To encourage the kaleidoscope of play our designs mimic nature’s curves and flows. We design in the round, a continuum of spaces leading from one to the next, around and back again. Play features are not placed in isolation but integrated into whole environments, webs of interlinking spaces and parts. The circle and the web are shown to encourage social play, interaction and engagement.

“Swedish studies found that children on asphalt playgrounds had play that was much more interrupted; they played in short segments. But in natural playgrounds, children invent whole sagas that they carry from day to day – making and collecting meaning”

Our designs suggest rather than prescribe, leaving children to decide for themselves what the shapes and structures represent. This provides them with endless play possibilities depending on their mood and energy. Instead of play boats and trains we build versatile features which become whatever a child’s imagination can conjure up.

Watching children play in nature it quickly becomes obvious how nature meets all the varied needs of children. Our work is to connect children with these open-ended, creative, connecting, challenging and inspiring elements by re-introducing nature into all our play spaces.

Creating playable communities

Play is much more than an isolated activity exclusive to children.

As well as freedom, children need a sense of safety and belonging in the adult world, and adults need to witness the joy and vitality of young people. In the past, playing outside was a given and communities were held together by life and play happening right on their doorstep.

Well-designed play spaces have the power to break down barriers between people of all ages, social groups and abilities. We create environments that bring people together by providing inclusive play opportunities alongside spaces for gathering, resting and watching the world go by. Boundaries between the play area and the wider community are designed to feel fluid, creating easy access and a sense that this is not somewhere separate, but a place for everyone. All our designs meet PIPA guidelines where possible.

We like communities to feel a sense of care and ownership for their play spaces, so given the chance we run design workshops and consultations where everyone can bring their ideas.