What Natural Materials Would You Use for Natural Playground?

What natural materials would you use for building a natural playground? We will explore the best ways to create a space that is safe and fun for children, with lots of opportunities for them to run, jump and play.

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Research shows that children who explore natural playgrounds tend to use their imagination more, are more creative, work as a team, and play longer than their counterparts in structured playgrounds. Schools, commercial parks, communities, and private individuals have taken note of the research and are incorporating more natural elements in their setups to encourage natural play.

So, what natural materials would use for a natural playground? Fortunately, there are many natural materials that you can use on a natural playground. They include water, sand, mud, dirt, flowers, vegetables, pebbles/rocks, sticks, tree rounds, and edible plants. Others are twigs, weeds, grass, nuts/seeds, branches/logs, pine cones, feathers, and even fallen bird nests. Most of these materials are readily available and relatively cheap.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about setting up natural playgrounds and some natural materials you can use. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

Natural Play and Exposure to Nature

Natural materials are closely associated with natural play environments, and it is for a good reason. These spaces encourage kids to explore their surroundings and uniquely connect with nature.

The whole concept of nature play encourages children to explore the environment and connect with nature. This creates awe and wonder for your little ones. When children explore the world around them, they develop a greater understanding and appreciation for nature.

A boy and girl climbing.
Natural play will help them develop a sense of awareness and adaptability.

In natural play environments, children are also exposed to different weather conditions, helping them develop a sense of awareness and adaptability. For instance, they will know how to find shade to cool down if it is sunny. If it is raining, they will know how to find shelter.

All these experiences help children develop problem-solving skills, which are essential in all aspects of modern life.

Natural Play and Development

Many benefits come with natural play. For instance, it helps children develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.

  • Physical development: Children who explore natural play environments use their whole body. This helps them develop gross and fine motor skills. For instance, they use their legs to walk or run and their hands to pick up small objects.
  • Cognitive development: Natural play is critical in children’s cognitive development. As they explore their surroundings, they learn about cause and effect. For instance, if they throw a rock in a puddle, they will see the ripples that are created.
  • Emotional development: Natural play can also help children with emotional development. As they explore their surroundings, they learn how to control their emotions. They also learn how to share and take turns.
  • Social development: Natural play environments are also great for social development. As children interact with their peers, they learn how to share and take turns. They also learn how to resolve conflicts.

What Natural Materials Would You Use for Natural Playground?

Now that you know the concept of natural play and how it impacts child development, you might be wondering what natural materials you can use for a natural playground.

Fortunately, there are many options available. Here are some of the most common ones and how to use them.

1. Sand

Every kid has a natural affinity with sand. Almost all kids love playing with sand at various stages of their development. In fact, some people joke that children and sand are a perfect match made in heaven.

Natural sand adds a special dimension to every playground since it doesn’t dry out like paint and won’t go hard like clay. It might get stuck in your pockets and shoes, but it comes cleanly off the skin, and children can spend endless hours playing in it without stressing out their parents.

A heart shaped made on the sand.
Almost all kids love playing with sand at various stages of their development.

The natural properties of sand are miraculous. In fact, good-quality sand can be poured through a conventional funnel, and it will run from top to bottom just like a liquid.

Children can explore natural sand in various ways. Some like adding water to it to form castles, tunnels, and roads, while others prefer to make animal shapes. It can also be used for digging and sifting.

And the best part is that they can wake up tomorrow and do something entirely different since there are endless possibilities.

2. Water

Water is another popular choice for natural playgrounds. Just like sand, water provides endless opportunities for exploration and play.

One of the benefits of water is that it can be used in various ways. For instance, it can be used for pouring, splashing, and spraying. It can also be used for transport and construction.

It can also be used in different weather conditions. For instance, it can be used on a hot day to cool down or on a cold day to make snowballs.

And the best part is that water can be easily stored and transported. This makes it an ideal choice for natural playgrounds.

3. Trees

Trees are always a fantastic addition to any playground. Not only do they look great, but they also offer endless play opportunities and additional benefits.

Children can spend the whole day climbing trees and exploring their branches. Furthermore, they can use them as props for role-playing games. For instance, children can use leaves to construct simple houses or sticks for drawing.

A swing on a tree.
Trees also play a critical role in building other playground equipment such as tree houses and simple swing frames.

Trees can also provide shade on hot days and can be used to make natural shelters. And the best part is that they are completely renewable and eco-friendly.

In fact, trees attract insects and butterflies to the playground, which adds an essential element to the concept of natural play. They also play a critical role in building other playground equipment such as tree houses and simple swing frames.

4. Wood

Wood is another versatile natural material that can be used for various purposes. It can be used for building houses, fences, bridges, and other structures. It can also be used for carving or painting.

The best thing about wood is that it is easy to work with. It can be sawed, drilled, and nailed, making it perfect for construction projects. And the best part is that wood is completely renewable and eco-friendly.

5. Rocks

Although many people think that rocks are a dangerous addition to a playground, that is not true. In fact, they are a great addition to any playground since they offer endless opportunities for exploration and play.

They are fantastic because their surface is naturally grippy, and once they are in place, they will stay there for a long time.

Finding relatively smooth rocks that have been pummeled on beaches or rivers is relatively easy, and even if quarry-sharp rocks is all you can find, you can use a sledgehammer or grinder to crack them off and smooth the sharp edges.

One thing you need to remember is that rocks need to be far away from some playground equipment such as slides, see-saws, and swings to minimize the risk of injuries.

One of the simplest ways of using rocks on a natural playground is as stepping stones, encouraging competition among children. You can also use the relatively large rocks as a perfect edging for your sandpit.

Some people even use simple masonry tools to etch board games, pathways, water channels, roads, and other beautiful playground features into the rock surfaces.

6. Edible Plants

A simple garden in the natural playground space can be an incredible way to introduce kids to healthy living. It also provides a unique way to engage them with nature.

Climbing various plants such as snap peas, thornless berries, beans, and much more is a beautiful way of building long-lasting relationships with your little one while helping them bond with nature.

Not only do your little ones play outside and reap the numerous benefits of natural play space, but they can also snack on the various fruits and vegetables that they have grown themselves.

This is a perfect way of teaching them about healthy eating habits and the importance of protecting the environment.

7. Logs

Logs are another great addition to any natural playground. They can be used for various purposes such as seating, balance beams, bridges, and much more.

They are easy to work with and can be sawed, drilled, and nailed, making them perfect for construction projects.

A boy and a dog jumping on a log.
You can use logs to create temporary seating or balance beams.

One of the best things about logs is that they provide a natural element to the playground. They are perfect for building rustic-looking playgrounds that are in harmony with nature.

If you want a more permanent solution, you can use logs to build fences, bridges, and other structures. And if you want something that can be easily removed, you can use logs to create temporary seating or balance beams.

8. Barks

Barks is another versatile natural material that can be used for different purposes. It can be used for mulching, pathways, and even as a natural playground surface.

One of the best things about bark is that it is soft and forgiving, making it perfect for natural playgrounds. It is also easy to work with and can be easily installed.

A wooden pathway.
It can be used for mulching, pathways, and even as a natural playground surface.

Bark can be used to create rustic-looking playgrounds that are in harmony with nature. It is also a great way to create a natural play space that is safe for children.

Final Thoughts

The popularity of natural playgrounds is on the rise as parents and educators become more aware of the benefits of unstructured, outdoor play.

A natural playground allows children to explore their natural surroundings and use their imagination while playing.

So, if you’re considering creating a natural playground for your community or school, be sure to use the natural materials discussed here to get started.

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