Creating a Natural Playground: Incorporating Nature into Soft Play Equipment

Natural Playground

As our society becomes more technologically advanced, children are spending more time indoors and less time outdoors.

This lack of exposure to nature has been linked to a range of physical and mental health problems, including obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression.

To combat this trend, many playground designers like Perfect Settings are incorporating natural elements into their designs to create natural playgrounds.

These playgrounds are designed to promote physical activity and provide children with opportunities to explore and interact with nature.

In this article, we will highlight the benefits of natural play setup and look into the ways designers incorporate nature into soft play equipment.

Benefits of Nature-Based Play

Incorporating nature into soft play equipment offers numerous benefits for children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development.

Physical Development

Nature-based play environments provide children with opportunities to engage in active and dynamic play.

Features such as climbing structures made of natural materials like logs, rocks, and ropes encourage the development of balance, coordination, and gross motor skills.

The uneven surfaces and varying textures of these natural elements challenge children’s bodies in ways that traditional play equipment cannot.

This helps build strength, agility, and resilience while promoting a sense of adventure and exploration.

Cognitive Development

Natural playgrounds stimulate imaginative and creative play. Using natural materials such as tree branches, leaves, and pebbles encourages open-ended play scenarios.

Children can use their imagination to transform these materials into props for make-believe play, fostering creativity and problem-solving skills.

Furthermore, engaging with nature in play enhances cognitive abilities such as sensory perception, spatial awareness, and critical thinking.

Emotional Well-being

Interacting with nature has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s emotional well-being. Natural playgrounds provide a calming and nurturing environment that reduces stress and promotes relaxation.

The connection with the natural world helps children develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, and awe, which contributes to their overall happiness and sense of belonging.

Additionally, being surrounded by nature fosters a sense of empathy and respect for the environment, nurturing children’s emotional connection to the Earth.

Environmental Awareness

Creating natural playgrounds instills a sense of environmental stewardship in children from an early age. By incorporating nature into play equipment, children develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world.

They become more aware of the plants, animals, and ecosystems around them, fostering a sense of responsibility and care for the environment.

Natural playgrounds offer a platform to teach children about sustainability, conservation, and the importance of preserving our natural resources.

Ways to incorporate nature

Designers employ various strategies to incorporate nature into soft play playgrounds, creating engaging and immersive environments that blend natural elements with traditional play equipment. Here are some common ways designers achieve this:

Natural Materials

Designers opt for natural materials such as wood, rocks, tree stumps, and ropes to create play structures.

These elements mimic the textures, colors, and sensory experiences found in nature, offering a more authentic and tactile play environment.

Nature-Inspired Structures

Drawing inspiration from natural forms and shapes, designers design play structures. They may create treehouse-like platforms, rock-climbing walls, or tunnels that resemble animal burrows. These structures mimic natural habitats, fostering a sense of exploration and imaginative play.

Water Features

Incorporating water elements such as small streams, shallow pools, or fountains can add a dynamic and sensory-rich experience to the play area. Children can interact with water, learning about its properties and engaging in imaginative water play.

Natural Landscaping

Designers integrate landscaping elements like grassy hills, native plants, shrubs, and flowers into the play area.

This helps create a more visually appealing and immersive environment, connecting children with nature and providing opportunities for sensory exploration.

Sensory Gardens

Designers may include sensory gardens within the play area, featuring plants with different textures, scents, and colors.

These gardens engage children’s senses, promoting sensory exploration and appreciation for the natural world.

Natural Play Zones

Create designated zones within the playground that mimic specific natural environments. For example, a forest-themed zone might have tree-like structures, logs to climb on, and leafy canopies.

A beach-inspired zone could incorporate sandboxes, shells, and water play elements to replicate a coastal environment. These themed zones allow children to engage with nature in different ways and spark their imagination.

Wildlife-friendly Features

Designers may incorporate birdhouses, insect hotels, or butterfly gardens into the play area, attracting local wildlife and promoting biodiversity. These features create opportunities for children to observe and learn about the natural world firsthand.

Nature Art and Decorations

Incorporate nature-themed art installations, murals, or sculptures into the playground design. These artistic elements enhance the aesthetic and provide visual cues to connect children with nature.

Sensory Trails

Create sensory trails or pathways within the playground, featuring different textures, stepping stones, and natural materials. These trails encourage children to explore and engage with their senses as they navigate through the play area.

Green Spaces and Rest Areas

Designers may allocate green spaces and rest areas within the playground where children can relax, read, or simply enjoy nature. These spaces can feature benches, picnic tables, and shaded areas surrounded by trees and plants.


Creating natural playgrounds that incorporate nature into soft play equipment offers a transformative approach to children’s play experiences.

By providing opportunities for children to engage with the natural world, we promote physical development, imaginative play, and environmental awareness.

As we strive to reconnect children with nature and cultivate a sense of wonder and stewardship, playground designers create natural play environments that foster a deeper connection between children and the natural world.

These spaces provide opportunities for active play, sensory exploration, and imaginative experiences, promoting the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of children while nurturing their appreciation for nature.

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