Nature Play

Explore Nature Play

Research reveals a strong link between people’s experiences with nature and their psychological well-being and overall development. It is important that we encourage outdoor play and find ways to reconnect children with nature and play. Learn how our research has created opportunities for designing nature back into children’s lives, to benefit children’s play and engage communities in working together to create richer play experience for all users.

Research: Infusing nature into play

The playground model based solely on manufactured equipment is evolving. A greater diversity of play opportunities is desired to extend activity in schools and to meet the needs of a broader range of children and families in parks. The integration of natural components helps fulfill these needs as well as create richer play experiences. Naturalization adds value to play structures by enhancing their visual quality as focal points, attracting children outdoors to use parks and school grounds. Equipment, combined with natural elements, tells children that playgrounds are their special places. The added comfort and aesthetic enhancement of nature encourages accompanying adults to also become enthusiastic users.

Program: A scholarly approach to increasing time outside

NatureGroundsOur partnership with the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) has taught us that the environments that get the highest use employ a combination of manufactured and natural materials. NLI’s work with us on NatureGrounds®, Creating and Retrofitting Play Environments has resulted in a guide that helps communities design play spaces that integrate manufactured equipment with the living landscape to engage people and keep families engaged for longer periods of time.  Our play brands can create renderings that show what your nature play space can look like, and even help with phasing plans to add to the natural surroundings and create additional opportunities for play, gathering, and wildlife observations. Our long-term goal is to create environments for healthy human development for generations to come.

Increasing numbers of children are losing contact with the natural world. Reasons include institutions with outdoor spaces that do not support children's developmental needs; apprehensive parents who keep their children close to home; state-mandated curricula that do not allow time for study outdoors; and the overly-structured, harried lifestyle of many children today. Evidence-based design can make a difference in the life of children and families by creating healthy natural environments.

We’d love to show you how nature and play can align to create spaces that attract and engage children and families.

“A generation ago, playing in nature was usually taken for granted. Now, nature must be deliberately designed back into children’s lives. In today’s urban and suburban environments, natural spaces are often too remotely located for visiting on a regular basis.”

- Robin Moore, Dipl Arch., MCP, ASLA
Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, NC State University


Custom Play
Wood and Natural Themed Play
Outdoor Musical Instruments
Site Furnishings
Bike Repair Stations


Request NatureGrounds guidebook


Download the NatureGrounds executive summary


Download the Blueprint for Play community planning toolkit


Learn more about building a National Demonstration Site for Nature Play

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Find a National Demonstration Site near you

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Discover funding opportunities for your upcoming nature play project

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Learn more about nature focused CEU education for professional organizations

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