Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Natural play in urban settings

You may think what the play industry describes as natural play only occurs in urban settings. However, if you look at children growing up in rural areas, their play is generally natural. They climb trees, swing out over rivers on flimsy lengths of rope, dig holes in earth banks, create huts and hideouts in long grass, under old pieces of wood and create their own fun.They thrive on few rules, except those made up to play new games. As adults those children are more likely to be entrepeneurial, manage suucess and failure well, are sociable, ready to explore new options and enjoy good mental and physical health.

Urban children can experience a similar range of natural play opporuntites, but only if we, the adult authority, allow it. We make the rules that state no treehouses may be erected...no home-made skate ramps may be left on the footpath/sidewalk...no climbing on the sunshetler roof of the toddler play equipment in the local park.

That leaves us with a challenge. As most people in the western world now live in urban areas what sort of communities do we want for the future? What sorts of people do we need to be the economy that will support us in our old age? How we shape our children today will have a direct bearing on us in our latter years.

Already we have seen our elderly neighbour incarcerated by her family as being 'too much trouble'. The 'me' generation emerging from teen-hood now have largely missed natural play in their formative years. They expect life to be 'as expected'. When it is not they do not know how to deal with it (and lock their mother away in a home rather than deal with her changing circumstance).

Natural play is about much more than a few logs in a playground, is about giving children the freedom to play. As adults we can make it easy for them or hard. It is up to us to allow a bit of mess, the chance of a skinned knee if they fall. It is up to us, as landscape architects, as urban planners, as parents, as city planners, as teachers and health care providers to provide for free natural play, even in urban settings.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Greenstone Design UK managing director to open Eco Schools for Early Years conference

Press release: Monday 21st March 2011

Kent County Council's Early Years & Childcare market development team have chosen Gayle Souter-Brown, of Greenstone Design UK Ltd, to open the inaugural Eco Schools for Early Years conference this Wednesday 23rd March, 2011. An expert in the field of natural play, learning outside the classroom and sustainable playground design, Mrs Souter-Brown will talk about the importance of reconnecting our children with the natural environment.

Multiple studies have proven the positive link between times spent active in well-designed outdoor spaces with mental and physical well-being. When young children and adults are healthy they perform better socially and academically. Cost effective design of Early Years settings meet or exceed government guidelines for sustainable schools.

Sustainable and environmental education for Early Years is about having fruit trees to sit under, climb through, watch bees pollinate and eat the fresh fruit, a garden to dig in, harvested rainwater water to play gardener with, jungle planting to encourage exploration, places to hide, places to create, safe yet stimulating space and the freedom to enjoy the childhood we enjoyed. It is not about the hazards of greenhouse gases, but rather to provide opportunities for children to enjoy and thus learn to value the environment around them.

The Eco Schools for Early Years programme encourages young children to learn about the environment and simple things they can do to make a difference. Greenstone Design UK are experienced eco schools assessors and trainers. Their trained Early Years advisors and designers work with Early Years settings to develop natural play gardens where children learn by doing, by having fun.

For information on this press release please contact:

Sarah Betts,
Press Officer,
E sarah@greenstonedesign.co.uk.
Greenstone Design UK

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Natural Play for schoolgrounds

Outdoor play has been the poor relation of indoor classroom teaching for some time. However, as we strive to achieve more with less our focus must shift to how we can add value to the educational experience our school site offers. With the tightened budget situation we need to prove the educational value of our play provision. Children learn through play, naturally, easily and without the need for expensive tools, resources and equipment.

What children learn through play in part comes from the setting, the design of the environment they are playing in. When a school playground design is focussed around the curriculum needs of the staff and children, as well as providing for wellness, community involvement, bio-diversity and sustainability, the school becomes an educational resource for both our children and the wider community.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Natural Play & joined up thinking

We at Greenstone Design UK believe in a joined up approach to play. From a quality of life perspective it is every child’s right to play out. As sustainable landscape designers we work with communities and school groups to develop playful, healthy communities. We work with voluntary groups to enable cost effective, transformational design. We design carefully to ensure volunteer labour can use locally available and recycled materials to create dynamic play spaces, local to where children live.

Children’s play can bring communities together. When that play area is filled with bio-diverse planting, edible, climbable shade trees and abundant wildlife, the whole community benefits. Children learn to love the environment as they break bits of it for their use (den building), they learn to value nature as they watch, chase and catch butterflies, depression, obesity and social isolation are countered while having fun, outdoors.

Children’s outdoor play can reconnect children with nature. We need to think about the wider picture and the huge opportunities that neighbourhood play spaces can provide, for the whole community.