Now two full years have passed since our Nature Play: Nature Conservation project to explore the idea of informal, child-led play within an area of native vegetation in the Botanic Garden. It is a good time to explore the legacy and assess the impact the introduction of nature play may have had since then.
The Project lasted six months and involved more than 50 children and their parents or carers. Families were invited to a corner of the Botanic Garden where there is a small woodland, meadow and pond, and encouraged to interact with the natural features of the area through play.
The two main conclusions from the Project based on observations at the time and subsequently are:
- Nature play doesn’t need to be led by adults. Nor does it need any special props, tools or additional materials. Children (under five years) will spontaneously discover ways of interacting with the natural elements around them (leaves, branches, stumps, grasses, stones, puddles, etc) without instruction. Their imagination creates everything else.
- The impact of activity by small children on semi-natural vegetation was not long-term or permanent. We were also interested to see if disturbance might actually have a positive effect on the vegetation, by opening up closed sward to regeneration. After the two years of letting children use this nature area for informal play there has been no change, positive or negative, on the quality of the habitat and the overall impact is probably best described a benign.
Safe, diverse and accessible ‘wild spaces’ are at a premium in urban areas. By relaxing restrictions or facilitating access to encourage nature play within natural areas in gardens, parks or arboreta we can provide a valuable social resource, with many associated health benefits, at no cost in terms of budget or impact. If you want to know more about this project contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
There is a short video on the Nature Play: