Electronic play stations have only been around for a little more than a decade, but nature has provided play stations for eons. As the suburbs grow, the nature in our lives shrink. Artificial playgrounds and electronic games do not replace what is essential to the health of humankind. As we gather from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, trees are happy to provide for our well-being but we forget too easily our reverence and appreciation for the things a tree has to offer. A tree gives us clean air, shade, and a view into the natural world. This lesson is important now more than ever.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, writes about saving our children from nature-deficit disorder: “The most important goal is for our children, in their everyday lives, to experience joy and wonder, sometimes in solitude — for them to create their own nature experiences and, as they grow up, to expand the boundaries of their exploration.”
For those of us who love nature but live in urban areas, a trip to the woods and into nature is a weekend activity. A moment in nature provides the antidote to a stressful week. Nature play is a necessary restart button and provides a healing sense of calm. How can we incorporate this sense into our daily lives?
If we do not live by a forest and we long for those weekend visits, we can construct areas in our own yards for the daily nature experience and to provide informal play for our children and for ourselves. A natural play station provides a gateway to invite the child (big or small) into a place for unstructured play and leads one to activities for exploration, adventure play, creativity, and imagination.
My neighbors’ children find hours of enjoyment on their own outdoor play stations built by their parents in the big old hackberry trees in their yard. Add this type of play station to your yard and it becomes a place where your children can grow into their imaginations. A large tree will hold a variety of swings and ropes on the strong limbs. A bench, a chair, or a glider completes the ensemble and the tree becomes the place where the whole family can congregate, play, rest, contemplate, entertain, and enjoy.
Need more nature play in your life? Consult these articles and projects for ideas on how to incorporate outdoor play areas into your home landscape.