Nature-themed Playground Project
for Parents and Kids
America is caught in the middle of the questions to be answered regarding raising kids in the hopes of a better, bigger, and bountiful future. In the recent years, parents, educators and other organizations have dabbled incorporating technology and achievement-based activities as they try to decipher a progressive parenting style. A study done by the U.S. Nature Conservancy revealed that 88% of today’s children spend their time in front of a computer. To counteract the perils of the computer-centric sedentary lifestyle, highly competitive organized sports and homeworks occupy any given child’s schedule. The result - a nation teeming with very young children battling obesity and are dealing with stress, anxiety, and even depression. According to Richard Louv, pediatricians have expressed that this generation of kids have the lowest life expectancy which is attributed largely to sedentary lifestyle. Parents seem to be at loss as they are torn in drawing the line between child development and unsustainable yet seemingly promising growth. Some say that they empathize with their children as they have to juggle the trend of “All School Work, No Play” routine to cope with the so-called modern time.
In exchange of precious time with nature-based playtime that is doused with imaginative and unstructured play, kids are subject to shorter or even non-existent recess or downtime. Children who are wired with careless and carefree curiosity are no longer found in outdoor playgrounds. These kids have been confined to the constricts of too cerebral and too calculated classrooms and have forgone park visits. With media’s direct and indirect attacks against free play and safety, parents and teachers have shut down the charm and lessons that are best devoured in nature, while at play.
Surprisingly though, a Danish study reported that parents and even grandparents believed that one of the most effective way to ignite child development is by being in an outdoor area instead as opposed to perfecting skills needed for organized sports. Of course, we can not discount the fact that safe and fun community playgrounds, parks and other nature-inclined hubs have sharply decreased, but that does not mean they’re inaccessible. We encourage you to take a break from your screen and get your kids for a walk in the park while considering these nature-themed projects and tips to give hope to 66% of children who believe that their experiences with nature whether it be with parents, siblings, or friends is a life-enriching encounter.
Dream Team, Dream Theme
Kids are often daydreaming and are attuned with habits that are highly amusing and sometimes, even unimaginable. Kristina Towill, a mom and a psychologist advocates out of door playtime that is scientifically tested as a channel to tap creativity and critical skills. Encounter with play spaces that are inspired by the outdoors and the nature tickle the minds of kids especially when they are the creators of their own stories.
As kids delve in the world of free play with nature, they also learn the ropes of socializing with other kids and even adults, too. More often than not, through themed play, children are able to capture their dearest wishes, their long-life dreams and even their calling for life. The next time your kids jump into a themed sailboat and shout out - ‘Aye! Aye, Captain!’ - hold your horses and just let them be. Who knows, one day they might be able to set sail to a New Age ship as they break the frontier of humanity’s newest trip?
Conquer Fright, Conquer Height
Climbing a tree is one simple yet grand encounter with nature. More importantly, studies have proven that a green space rouses kids to be more active and become more productive. Greening a school also promotes an affinity to exploring a world beyond viral videos and passionate comments that sometimes lead to bullying. Then again, with the fear that parents, teachers and caregivers have regarding playground equipment safety, adults tend to direct children’s play instead of keeping a safe distance as kids swim and sink in a world that they are yet to discover. In the recent years however, playground builders and designers have placed fun and safe play in one go without sacrificing one or the other.
Train your kids to climb a tree by spending an afternoon with a favorite American playground staple, the geo dome climber. This classic playground equipment can hold a group of kids who are off to conquer a new height and down their usual fright. Designed to withstand the elements of nature, this dependable dome climber is sure to last for a good number of years.
“No Parking” Park Play Day
Teachers and parents can work together to re-instill the precious 60 minutes per day for physical activity and unstructured play recommendation from no less than the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Consider organizing a school day for parents and kids to gather in a park. The added catch is that the cars must be left in an area that is 15 minutes away from the park. Studies reported that cars usually get in the way of kids and time with nature and play as they are too dependent on getting from one place to another with the least possible time and effort. Kids would rather jump in a car instead of taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or take a good bike ride. This is also another reason why a community’s connection turns disconnected or maligned. It is no longer uncommon for adults to take a step back when a child needs help in the fear of being accused as abducting a minor.
It’s about time to live in nature and get back on the communal track which is after all, sustainable and practical. Park amenities are not only provided by the government for the sake of compliance to a community. Instead, these outdoor areas are nature-based play spaces where kids can get fit, while adults get to know the community as they find their niche on their neighborhood, too. Go ahead, park that car. Hop on a bike or take walk around. Prepare homemade healthy snacks and share it with a group of hungry kids after their happy high with nature and free play. There’s such a simple yet profound joy in taking time to stop and smell the flowers, even in these modern days.
Eco Evolution Begins with a Crayon
A brush with nature-themed play equates to the risk of too much heat and an insect sting or two. But, when kids get to taste and feel the outdoors, they are likely to sharpen their creative and critical spheres. Get back to basic and be inspired to take kids to a journey with nature art. Gather recycled art materials like leftover crayons, used papers, and stacks of old buttons, ribbons, and even scattered stones and sand. Let their spirits and dreams run free as you hold an art lesson that is followed by a mini art exhibit.
Nature art is a subtle yet direct way to tell and retell kids that saving the environment is cool and doable. It is also an advocacy that informs kids that getting the heat of the sun on top of bug bites are normal parts of living a good and real life. To make this experience a memorable one, mount their masterpiece on a cheerfully colored easel so that kids can marvel at their works and feel a great sense of achievement that goes beyond finishing off another level of their well-loved computer games. Playground nature events like this one could also be a unique and cost-effective theme for birthday parties, summer camps, and even mini reunions of moms and dads.
Best Access Awards Day
Since Americans are gradually shifting to nature-themed lifestyle, brands and businesses are looking at ways to limit their carbon footprint and giving back to their communities. At present, recreational areas like zoos can do more with their commercial playgrounds. For instance, part of the funds they collect from visitors may be used to empower kids with autism. They can even hold a recognition day for talented kids with special needs in their very own accessible playgrounds. On top of opening the community’s eye to recognize the rights of these kids, commercial playgrounds could be utilized as a platform for changing the usual notion that goes with autism -that is being unable to be productive members of a society.
The Best Access Awards Day may also be done in partnership with communities beyond a single community. This is also a channel and a medium for brands to truly take part in addressing the increasing number of kids that are to deal with autism. To date, a vast group of U.S. kids are faced with attention deficit syndrome. Richard Louv, an advocate of tapping the potency of nature in rebuilding the lives of people strongly suggested that the most logical and practical way to combat the inconveniences caused by the technology-dependent world is to get back to nature and reap its bountiful and beautiful benefits for physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Switch Back, Switch Off
Do we switch off the technology-centric button of this modern world for our kids to get back on track?
Cliché as it may seem, the key to this puzzle is doing everything in moderation. Take time to give time for school and real encounter with the world beyond homework and soccer games. Consciously exert the effort to switch sedentary screen time to nature-inspired free play time. It’s not difficult to get back to basics, really. Start with walking around the block as you rediscover precious child-driven lessons found in a nearby playground in a park. Ignite that imagination and a brush with much deserved series of serious learning time, found in nature-themed playtime.