Healthy Play Outdoors Means Healthy Kids

Parks & Recreation

“Guidelines for natural playscapes?” What is this? It sounded like an oxymoron to me when I first heard about this initiative. Who in the world would think you need guidelines for kids to play in the woods? Well, I learned there is a lot more to this initiative than meets the eye, and the subject is very relevant to public parks and recreation.

When Richard Louv wrote The Last Child in the Woods about eight years ago, it was a wake-up call to parents, educators, and park and recreation advocates across the country, because people began to realize that this might be the last generation of kids who played outdoors. Kids were staying indoors to play video games, watch TV, surf the Internet and spend hours behind electronic devices. Kids no longer knew how to play outdoors, and worse, they didn’t care if they did.

With knowledge that there was a growing crisis that needed attention, the idea of creating nature play and learning areas quickly took shape. Parks, childcare institutions and schools all became interested in developing their own nature play spaces — safe, controlled areas that contain natural features and materials from nature to enable discovery play. Parents want more, and they are asking park and recreation agencies to provide these kinds of play areas. But how do you make such nature play places safe for all?


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