The Parks & Recreation department in Denver, Colorado are looking to the natural environment as they seek to replace and rejuvenate a number of dated playgrounds in the city. Natural playgrounds, constructed from recycled trees and boulders have become a very popular option in replacing traditional playgrounds that are made up of metallic slides, swings and monkey bars.
According to recent studies, children generally get bored quickly when they are taken to a typical old fashioned playground set-up. But when children visit playgrounds that embrace the surrounding natural environment, children tend to stay for a longer period of time and return more frequently.
At Pasquinel’s Landing Park in Denver, construction of the first nature playground us already underway. The playground has been designed by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, who are a reputable Canadian company known for building world-class playgrounds all over the globe. The company also has two other ongoing projects in Westwood Park and First Creek near Denver international airport. These projects are due for completion this year.
Adam Bienenstock, the Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds Founder and CEO, who also happens to hold the position of Principal Designer, was at the Pasquinel’s Landing park in order to observe and supervise the construction of the nature park. The play items are made mostly from tree wood taken from local parks and from a friendly neighbour’s front yard.
Mr Bienenstock said that “the most important part of this is we just want kids to connect to nature in a way that I remember when I was a kid, but we know is missing from most of their lives now”. Mr Bienenstock also said the natural playgrounds are one of the few places where children can have this experience.
This popularity of these ‘green’ playgrounds has extended beyond the shores of Pasquinel’s landing park. Other cities in Denver have also started to see the benefits of installing natural playgrounds. Broomfield and Westminster have set up plans in place for projects and Littleton already has a natural play area along the Mary Carter Greenway.
Emily Patterson, the parks for people program manager for the Trust of Public Land, believes that the natural look of the parks speaks to the youth in ways that could never be imagined, connecting their minds to the world of nature, and prompting them to explore more of the terrain.
Jackie Miller, the director of youth initiatives for Great Outdoors Colorado, believes that even though the trend of natural parks will continue to grow at a rapid rate, people should not rule out traditional parks just yet. She commented that “We see a lot of playground projects and the trend is definitely shifting towards more natural play. There will always be a place for traditional equipment, but there is a growing interest in bringing nature close to home”.
Bienenstock believes the natural setting ushers in a lot of advantages, like encouraging independence and social skill development for children. The playgrounds can also help to boost children’s creativity in a way that traditional playground set-ups have been unable to.
Denver has made an innovative move, and we can only hope that cities around the world will follow in their footsteps. It’s time to encourage our children to enjoy their natural surroundings and connect with nature once more.