How Does The Inclusion of Nature-Based Playgrounds Influence Physical Activity and Development in Children?

Imagine a park where children are free to explore, build, and interact with the world around them in their own unique ways. Gone are the standard, metal-and-plastic structures of typical playgrounds. These are replaced by natural materials like logs, stones, and plants that stimulate creativity and encourage active play. This is the reality of nature-based playgrounds.

Over the past decade, there has been a noticeable shift from traditional playgrounds to these nature-based spaces. A quick Google scholar review will present you with multiple studies showcasing the myriad benefits of this approach. But what exactly does this mean for your children? How does the inclusion of nature-based playgrounds influence their physical activity and development? Let’s delve into this topic to find out.

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The impact of nature-based playgrounds on children’s physical activity

When we consider playgrounds, the first thing that likely comes to mind is their role in promoting physical activity. Traditional playgrounds, with their slides and swings, are a staple in many children’s exercise regimes. However, nature-based playgrounds take this a step further.

Natural playgrounds are designed to engage children on multiple levels. The unpredictable, varied terrain encourages them to engage in different types of movement, expanding their range of physical skills. A simple Google scholar search will reveal numerous studies indicating that children playing in natural playgrounds are more active than those using traditional playgrounds.

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According to one such study, the diverse play options available in nature-based playgrounds can significantly increase the amount of time children spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity. This has important implications for their overall health, given the global concern about childhood obesity and inactivity.

Nature-based playgrounds and children’s development

Beyond just the physical sphere, nature-based playgrounds are found to have a profound effect on children’s development. A review of the literature on Google Scholar will reveal that these playgrounds can significantly enhance children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Children who play in nature-based playgrounds often engage in more complex, imaginative play. This kind of play stimulates their cognitive development, fostering problem-solving and creativity skills.

In addition, nature-based playgrounds are often designed to be inclusive, accommodating different ages and abilities. This fosters a sense of community among the children, promoting social development. Here, children learn to navigate social situations, cooperate with others, and develop empathy.

The role of nature in children’s health and wellbeing

Nature-based playgrounds not only promote physical activity and development but they also have a strong influence on children’s health and wellbeing. A review of studies on Google Scholar reveals a clear link between exposure to nature and improved health outcomes in children.

For one, children who spend more time in natural settings are likely to have lower stress levels. This is because nature has a calming effect on the mind, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

Moreover, exposure to nature has been found to improve children’s attention spans and focus, which can have positive impacts on their academic performance. Nature also encourages exploration and curiosity, essential elements in a child’s learning journey.

The future of nature-based playgrounds

Given their numerous benefits, it’s no surprise that nature-based playgrounds are becoming increasingly popular. Many schools and communities are already integrating these spaces into their environments.

However, the implementation of nature-based playgrounds is not without challenges. For one, there’s the question of safety – natural elements like water and trees can pose risks if not properly managed. Then there’s the issue of maintenance, as natural playgrounds can require more upkeep than their traditional counterparts.

However, with careful planning and design, these challenges can be overcome. The key is to balance safety with the need for children to take risks – a vital part of their development.

In the future, we can expect to see more of these playgrounds, as more and more communities recognize their value. As research continues to uncover the benefits of nature-based play, it’s clear that these playgrounds have a significant role to play in children’s physical activity and development.

Final Thoughts

The inclusion of nature-based playgrounds is proving to be a game-changer in the realm of children’s physical activity and development. With their diverse play options and natural elements, these playgrounds offer a rich, stimulating environment that encourages children to engage in more active, imaginative play.

However, it’s important to remember that the benefits of nature-based play are not limited to these playgrounds. Even simple interventions, like incorporating natural elements into traditional playgrounds or encouraging children to play outdoors, can have a positive effect.

In the world of child development, it seems, the future is looking increasingly green.

Cross-Sectional Studies on Nature Play and Motor Competence

Multiple studies accessed through scholarly databases like Google Scholar and PubMed have shown a significant connection between nature play and motor competence. A cross-sectional study, for instance, found that children who often play in nature-based play spaces demonstrate enhanced motor competence.

The natural elements in these play spaces – such as logs, stones, and water – often demand a range of movements. Therefore, children who regularly interact with these elements can develop a broad variety of motor skills. They learn to balance on logs, manipulate stones, navigate uneven terrain, and even master sophisticated movements like climbing or jumping.

These varied physical experiences in nature play spaces are invaluable for children’s motor development. According to a systematic review of three studies, children who frequently engage in nature play showed significant improvements in their balance, coordination, and agility. This demonstrates the critical role of nature play in fostering motor competence in children.

However, it’s worth noting that safety must be a priority when designing these playgrounds. While some degree of risk is beneficial for children’s development, excessive risk could lead to injuries. Therefore, it’s essential to craft nature-based play spaces that offer diverse play options while also ensuring children’s safety.

The Role of Nature-Inspired Play Equipment in Promoting Children’s Health

Shifting our focus from the natural landscape to the play equipment, nature-inspired play tools also have significant benefits. According to an article in PubMed, children who engage with nature-inspired play equipment exhibit better health outcomes.

For instance, using play equipment that mimics natural elements – like climbing boulders, log balance beams, and sand play areas – can enhance children’s physical activity. This is especially crucial in a time when childhood obesity is becoming a global concern.

Similarly, nature-inspired play equipment can positively impact children’s mental health. The PMC free article indicates that children who interact with nature-inspired play equipment are often less stressed and more focused. This is likely because these types of play equipment often demand full attention and creativity, which can be both engaging and calming.

Again, it’s crucial to strike a balance between promoting active play and ensuring safety. Nature-inspired play equipment should be designed in a way that minimizes the risk of injuries while still encouraging children to explore and challenge themselves.


The inclusion of nature-based playgrounds and nature-inspired play equipment is, undeniably, a promising trend in child development. The wealth of research available on Google Scholar and PubMed underscores their potential in promoting physical activity, developing motor competence, and enhancing children’s health.

However, it’s essential to remember that while the benefits of these playgrounds are significant, they are not the sole solution. Encouraging children to play outdoors, integrating natural elements into traditional playgrounds, and fostering a general love for nature are equally crucial. After all, the ultimate goal is to nurture a generation of children who are physically active, developmentally competent, and deeply connected to the natural world.

So, in light of the statistical significance that nature play holds in child development, it’s clear – the future of children’s play is not just green, but vibrant, diverse, and rooted in nature.

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