Natural Playground Project

Posted December 1st, 2011

Turtle Rock Preschool has begun a multi-year improvement of its entire outdoor play space – with the first phase of improvements already complete!

The Natural Playgrounds Company of New Hampshire visited our campus earlier this year, and after a thorough collaboration with us was able to create a Master Plan for our “Natural Outdoor Play and Learning Area”. They are the leading US experts in the design and construction of innovative, environmentally sensitive, natural playgrounds and outdoor classrooms.

Pre-manufactured play equipment found at nearby parks are normally selected from catalogs. They emphasize active, or ‘gross motor’ play and offer little room for children to play creatively, since there is a finite number of ways to use each aspect of the equipment. Children may enjoy this type of play for a while… but it soon becomes very repetitive and boring. When children get bored, they start using equipment in ways for which it wasn’t designed – like running up a slide – which invariably ends up causing injuries. These playgrounds challenge children physically but do very little to challenge them emotionally, socially, and creatively. They also promote competition rather than cooperation.

“Natural playgrounds” are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex interplays of natural objects in ways that challenge and fascinate children, and teach them about the wonders of the natural world while they play within it. Natural playgrounds focus on creating settings that enable the type of play most important to young children: social play (pretending) and constructive play (building). Natural playgrounds encourage children to use their imaginations while simultaneously experiencing the smells, textures and wonders of the natural world.

It’s not just more fun… it’s better for them! Developmentally, the first six years are the critical years of a child’s life, where we literally mold their mental and physical health. This is the best opportunity we have to effect positive change in their lives and their health. There is now an overwhelming body of research showing a direct link between exposure to nature and the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children – including reducing ADD. Natural Play helps them score higher on tests for concentration and self-discipline, helps them experience more diverse play, and helps them exhibit less aggressive behavior, and become healthier. And — they’re perfect outdoor classrooms!

Our new Natural Playground ensures that our children will have a wonderful place to go outside where they can both play and learn.

Our Natural Playground Master Plan: (click on an area of the playground to view expanded detail)

Infant, Young Toddler and Toddler Playground Room 5 & 6 Playground Room 6, 7 and 8 Playground Room 6, 7 and 8 Playground Room 8 Playground Room 9 & 10 Playground Room 10 & 11 Playground

Natural Playground Master Plan

As indicated on the plan above, this project will be implemented in three phases over several years. “Phase 1″ (outlined in red) was completed in March 2012. “Phase 2″ (outlined in orange) is scheduled for 2014. “Phase 3″ (outlined in blue) is the final portion, and is scheduled for 2016.


Take a moment to browse some Natural Playground concept photos in the slideshow below. While these are not of our playground, nearly all of the elements pictured are included in our plan.

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