Home > The Playground > Natural Playscapes and Free-range Kids; Set Them Free

Natural Playscapes and Free-range Kids; Set Them Free

NOTE: Still on vacation, but this post original published in May 2010 continues to get hits, so I thought today (July 7, 2011) I’d repost it to the front page as a sticky.


Thinking about playgrounds today, I visited Playscapes, a BLOG about playground design. The statements of intent in the right hand column of the website say it all:

  • Because it’s difficult to find non-commercial playground information. And I find that frustrating.
  • Because a playground doesn’t have to cost a million bucks and come in a box. In fact, it’s better if it doesn’t.
  • Because playgrounds are under-recognized as an artistic medium.
  • Because everybody loves a playground.

(Click for larger view photo by Ian MacPherson via Playscapes)

The main role of the site is finding images of interesting playgrounds and parks. Recently they ran this image of an interactive sculpture in Bondi Beach, Australia. Yes, this is a sculpture; but it also is a playground. It rotates when children push it.

It’s brilliant.

In particular, the collection of ideas at Playscapes under the category: ‘natural playgrounds and natural playground elements‘ is worth a perusal.

Here you’ll find a collection of inspiring play spaces, like a beaver lodge, amazing playhouses made out of sticks and, to prove it’s not that difficult, a massive rock can provide hours of exploration for the children in all of us. We need more equipment that is safe and let’s little people figure out how they want to engage.

I’ll be writing more about natural playscapes in the future. In the next post, I’ll talk about their inclusion in some of the current bayfront plan and there already is a local neighborhood interested in the concept for Clancy Park that I will highlight next week.

There is a little resistance by the city staff, so if you know anything about the natural playgrounds or are just interested in them, please send a short email to the parks and recreation commission, in care of the city manager. That could go a long way in showing that there is support for something a little different.

You can learn more about natural playscapes at:

  • Earthplay: A company that helps communities plan, design and implement natural playgrounds
  • Natural Playgrounds Company: another design business, with an excellent list of resources on the need and the how to help people reconnect with the natural environment.
  • LandCurrent: Out of Eugene, OR, doing similar work and providing background like the two above. Their portfolio is worth a quick look.
  • And, a search for Natural Playgrounds in Google images is sure to take up a chunk of your time.


  1. Lee Maynard
    May 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Today’s post is great! Hope TC P&R adopts some natural playscapes- today.

  2. Lee Maynard
    May 13, 2010 at 10:58 am

    the best linear playscape (for all ages)that I’ve experienced is Cairns Australia’s Esplanade. TC can do it, too- tropical temps not required: http://www.cairnsesplanade.com.au/Home

  3. May 13, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Set them free; set us free….

  4. Matthew Ross
    May 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Natural plays grounds are great,and a lot more interesting to look at as well,it would be a good fit for our bay front. when my daughter was about two we had a huge rock in front of our house down state. Everyday she wanted me to take her to play on it. She loved it. I am all for doing something different. The more I learn about the options we have for the bay front the more I want it done right. I hope we don’t settle on the ordinary. Let’s think outside the “BOX”. Great post!

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