A growing body of research reveals a strong link between people’s experiences of being outdoors in nature and their psychological well-being and overall development. In today’s urban and suburban environments, natural spaces are often too remotely located for visiting on a regular basis. Guidelines developed with the Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, NC State University resulted in two program guides which can help deliberately design nature back into people’s lives to benefit play, physical activity levels, and create richer outdoor experiences.
Learn how to bring Nature to Play with NatureGrounds and Play to Nature with Pathways for Play. The former enhances the playground model, traditionally based solely on manufactured equipment, to meet the needs of a broader range of people by integrating nature components that create richer play experiences. The latter integrates playful experiences into walkable, bikeable, shared use community pathway networks infused with "play pockets" providing opportunities for playing along the way, and deeper more meaningful family engagement.
To create the guidebooks, supporting research was gathered on spontaneous play, family interaction in the outdoors, contact with nature, and adult/child interaction. This data was used to develop a set of benefits supported and implied by the research, namely health promotion, inclusion, engagement with nature, environmental literacy, connectivity, and community social capital. We share this data not just with communities, but with our own brands so that they infuse the research into their product development, design, and community services.
Utilize this: Play Value Plant Database
Use the free Plant Database to choose plants that are appropriate for your zone by their play value, for instance, sensory attributes, attracting butterflies or birds, providing "loose parts" for play, or a host of other playful traits. (In addition to commonly found criteria like zone, height, growth habits, etc.) It's a fantastic tool for landscape architects, park administrators, nature-focused organizations, schools, and anyone who wants to integrate play and learning with nature in order to promote rich and diverse recreation experiences for children and families.
Target schools with this: Green Schoolyards
Looking specifically for green schoolyard information? These resources specifically address how green schoolyards benefit academic performance, creative play, physical activity and overall mental health.