Natural Environments in Kindergartens

Remember when you were in kindergarten and playing outside in the grass was your favourite part of the day. However some children in the city don’t have the opportunity to play with natural materials, instead their play areas are mostly concrete and plastic.

In this article from The Age, Miki Perkins discusses how Wes Fleming, who is known for his gardening expertise, has been transforming the play areas of the some kindergartens in the Melbourne area. The kindergartens are making the change from a plastic play area to a more environmental one with plants and trees.

The change comes about after a study was conducted that has shown children’s ideal play area included a more natural environment. When the children were asked to draw their ideal garden, their drawings included trees, plants and grass. Despite the benefits of increased exercise and knowledge of nature, an organic play area has the benefits of increasing imaginative play.

Imaginative play is important as it allows children to express their creativity. Growing up in rural Victoria, my kindergarten had a very large play area, which included many plants and flowers. These aspects allowed us to become more creative in the games and activities that we played. We made flower crowns out of daisies that we used to play princesses and tree stumps as our dinner table when we pretended to be parents.

The natural materials encourage children to find creative ways to include the environment into the games they play.

A more natural environment also benefited the children that might otherwise be a bit boisterous when playing. The trees and flowers encouraged children to calm down and observe their surroundings, such as studying leaves or petals. Learning to engage with others in a quiet and calm manner is also an essential skill for children to learn, so that they are able to communicate with others efficiently.

The introduction of plants and trees to kindergartens and childcare centres shows increasing benefits for the children and allows for more creativity than plastic and concrete play areas. However it is hard to create such areas in the city but any introduction of plants, even pot plants, had a positive effect on the children.

Nedovic, S. & Morrisey, A. (2013) Calm, active and focused: Children’s responses to an organic outdoor learning environment, Learning environments research, 16(2), 281-295.

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