Putting Nature Into Play


Putting Nature Into Play

A growing body of research reveals a strong link between children’s experiences of being outdoors in nature and their psychological well-being and overall development. PlayCore has partnered with the Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, NC State University to develop NatureGrounds Best Practice guidelines to deliberately design nature back into children’s lives to benefit children’s play, physical activity levels, and to create richer play experiences for all users.

NatureGrounds: Putting Nature Into Play is a comprehensive program that provides best practice guidelines for creating and retrofitting play environments that integrate manufactured play equipment and the living landscape. The purpose of NatureGrounds is to create a dramatic shift in the standard playground development process by deliberately designing nature back into children’s lives, not only to benefit children’s play but also to engage communities in working together to create richer play experience for all users.

Health research recognizes that everyday outdoor play in nature as a powerful preventive strategy for healthy childhood development — including protection against childhood obesity. A generation ago playing outdoors in nature was usually taken for granted; but in today’s urban and suburban environments, natural spaces are often too remotely located for visiting on a regular basis. The playground model based solely on manufactured equipment is being reconsidered to meet the needs of a broader range of children and their families in parks. The integration of natural components helps fulfill these needs as well as creating richer play experiences for all users. To promote this trend, naturalization is an effective strategy to stimulate, motivate, and encourage children’s play, and to increase the attraction of playgrounds for children and caregivers. The added comfort and aesthetic enhancement of nature encourage accompanying adults to also become enthusiastic users. 

Playgrounds designed with us utilizing this research are eligible for the National Demonstration Site program.

Developed in Partnership with


The Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) is a research and design assistance program of the College of Design of North Carolina State University. NLI creates environments for healthy human development and a healthy biosphere for generations to come. The purpose of the Natural Learning Initiative is to promote the natural environment in the daily experience of all children and families, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information.

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Learn More about our National Demonstration Site Program for Nature Play Design

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Find a Nature National Demonstration Site

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