Living and learning in nature

Posted on November 26, 2014

The outdoors is widely recognised as an essential part of a child’s learning and personal development with many early childhood centres extending and enhancing their outdoor spaces.

Henderson’s Living and Learning Family Centre has recently achieved this with a new, contemporary playground amongst a natural bush environment.

Natural Habitats, one of New Zealand’s leading landscaping organisations, was commissioned to create a natural play environment that provided adequate shade and noise control while being easy to maintain.

As one of the project’s ‘greening partners’, Kauri Park Nurseries helped to create a calming environment with good natural shading and excellent noise control through a range of grasses, mid size bushy plants and tall tree species. The plantings were strategically planted to provide links between playground areas via bush walkways.

A large number of native species were selected because of their robust nature, minimal upkeep with no watering or pruning needed, and their ability to tolerate the constant pounding of running feet. These included Griselinea, Taraire, Puriri, Coprosma Poor Knights, Karamu, Kanuka, Carex’s, Oioi, Cabbage trees, Phormium’s, Pseudopanax, Karo, Windgrass, Muehlenbekia and Pohutukawa.

The large, 700 square metre area perfectly blends nature with traditional play equipment. It incorporates a magic dome, a bridge, monkey bars, a large sand pit with sand dunes, a pirate’s watch tower, a glow worm tunnel, a plant maze and vegetable gardens.

The design includes separating barriers between each age group zone. These were concealed with plants to maintain a seamless feel across the site with gated areas able to be opened to provide one whole play space if desired.

The area offers ‘an experience with nature’ with the wide use of natural products such as timber, bark and sand, with minimal use of artificial elements such as plastic. The inclusion of plants and natural products will also help instil empathy for plants and nature into our future generation. While it affords carers the flexibility to incorporate a variety of interesting, educational elements into the curriculum including growing and caring for plants, lifecycles and seasons.

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