This group of McLaren Flat Primary School students went out on a limb to help design a Nature Play space next to their school, which this tree will be a centrepiece.

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Getting back to nature

The movement to swap swings, slides and monkey bars for big rocks to climb over, grassy hills to roll down and tree forts to explore is gaining ground all over the world.

“Nature play” is fun and educationally beneficial so by the end of this year the McLaren Flat Playground will be transformed into a natural wonderland of locally sourced old red gum logs, native plants, sand and water spaces just waiting to be explored.

Once complete, the natural playground will be filled with beautiful sights, sounds and textures providing both the sensory play experiences children love and the opportunity to better understand the environment.

Open Space and Community Assets Coordinator, Andrew Smith, says in a world of stranger danger and electronic media, kids spending free time playing outside is becoming a thing of the past.

“Without time playing freely outdoors there is a growing disconnect between children and nature,” Andrew says.

“We know that the best thing we can do is create natural spaces that enable children to play how they want to play, support their cognitive and physical capabilities, stimulate their senses, provide social interactions or independent play, and teach them about living things.

“And with so many children struggling with weight and fitness, having a playground that allows children to participate rather than watch from the sidelines, whatever their fitness level, is so important.”

Inclusiveness is something that has also been incorporated into the planning and design of the nature play space.

World-renowned natural playground designer, Adam Bienenstock, guided an enthusiastic group of McLaren Flat Primary School students through the planning, encouraging them to express their ideas and aspirations through creative mediums.

“Natural playgrounds should be the standard for all our playgrounds because they truly connect children with nature through play and are a sort of classroom for the next generation of environmental stewards,” Adam says.

The students began brainstorming their ideas while sitting in a tree with Adam and have followed that up with Skype sessions with him in his home country of Canada.

Enthusiastic members of the McLaren Flat Primary School ‘design team’, Matiah and Cody, loved working with Adam to develop spaces for their friends to have fun, get dirty and choose what and how they play.

“We had heaps of fun designing the nature play, thinking up ideas and writing them down was cool and we can’t wait for the fort and the flying fox to be built.”

The final nature play designs will soon be on display at the McLaren Flat Playground and community feedback on the unique mix of traditional and natural play experiences will be warmly welcomed, so be sure to check it all out.

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