Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Child's Perspective

      Kids Talk About Natural Play

Let's be frank. We are always telling people that natural playgrounds are better than traditional play areas. We should be saying that, it's our job, but we believe it - heart and soul! Don't take just our word for it.

Playgrounds are built by adults, and typically they don't ask children for advice. We thought it might be a novel idea to survey children, and get them to tell us about their favorite outside play activities -- just to see what they say about playing. Then, we reasoned, we could design playgrounds that let kids play the way they want to play.

With this in mind, over the years we've asked for information from over 5,000 children, and sure enough, they don't like typical playgrounds. What they do like are all the things we used to like when we were kids: playing in the leaves, climbing trees, looking for bugs, climbing on rocks, and making forts. But one of the most significant findings is that kids also want their playgrounds to provide a place for quiet reflection. They like listening to the wind, and watching things grow and change. They like building and inventing things, exploring and discovering, playing in the dirt, playing in the rain, and socializing....

We asked 600 children in grades 1-4 for their thoughts. They bear careful study and reflection by all of us adults, because -- and this is important -- it's an insight into what kids think, what they want, how they play, what they get excited about, how they interact with each other, what they think is important....

How can we not pay attention to this information? How can we justify spending money on things kids don't care about? The concern about safety has somehow disconnected us from our children and young adults -- and from our common sense. It's convinced us that our only option is to buy manufactured equipment. But keep in mind that a hill to climb and then roll or slide down is more safe than a manufactured climbing structure. A beautiful stone wall to sit and walk on is every bit as safe as a plastic fence, and it's nicer looking, too. And a tree provides more shade, temperature control, beauty, and texture than a shade tent.

Take a look at our website. We have a large list in which kids tell us why they like to do these things. It's pretty amazing stuff.

These have become our guidelines. We hope they become yours, as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Natural Playgrounds: Best Choice in a Tight Economy

Safe, sustainable, and more challenging Natural Playgrounds cost less than traditional playground equipment and are catching the eye of childcare centers, elementary and Montessori schools, and communities wanting to save money in this tight economy.
The Natural Playgrounds Company® says it can save communities, schools, and childcare centers lots of money by creating sustainable, Natural Playgrounds that are safer and meet green standards, yet challenge kids emotionally, physically, and mentally. 

For the past 60 years, everyone, including bottom-liners, has relied on playground equipment companies providing answers to questions about play and children,says Ron King, President of the Concord, NH-based Natural Playgrounds Company. 

Don't cross a natural playground off your wish list simply because your organization has a smaller budget. We've transformed play area all over the United States. We've worked with schools with limited funds and with little space.

When a playground needed refurbishing, or a new playground was needed, decision-makers turned to playground equipment companies to give them the most up-to-date playground equipment that met the newest safety standards,said King.

Then every ten years or so, when that equipment became outdated, out-of-code, and out of compliance, it was dumped in the trash and replaced without a thought, sometimes at great sacrifice to other, more pressing program needs, and certainly at great cost to the environment.

Now that's changing, and changing fast, and people relying on that old thinking are losing out big time, because now, today, things are different.

King says that for one thing, kids have never liked equipment. Kids keep telling us (and we've interviewed over 5000) that they get bored trying to play on equipment, and would rather do more fun things like dig in the sand, climb trees, make forts, play in the tall grass, or look for bugs.
The cost for this kind of play, says King, is low.

Second, when kids get bored, they start using equipment in ways for which it was not designed, and that causes accidents, some of which result in deaths.

In 2000, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported that the annual cost to the US of the over 560,000 equipment-related accidents on playgrounds -- some resulting in deaths -- is over $8.4 billion every year in medical, legal and liability, pain and suffering, and work loss expenses.

Third, says King, is that the cost of equipment is very high, especially in relation to its play value, (the kind and amount of play per child, per dollar). It has always been costly, but now that the price of oil is a daily, global issue, prices for play components with a petrochemical base will continue to soar even more.

King says that the fourth reason why decision-makers are changing their thinking about playgrounds, is that the environmental impact of manufacturing, shipping, and then trashing playground equipment every ten years is very high. 

This is now being referred to as a carbon footprint -- the total carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted during production, shipping, use, and disposal. With dwindling world resources, continuing ozone depletion, and ever-rising oil prices, King says that lowering the carbon footprint has become a passionate goal for child care centers, schools, and governments throughout the US.

Fifth, equipment-based playgrounds are not sustainable, and are therefore environmentally costly. 
Manufacturing playground equipment causes more rapid consumption of the Earth's limited natural resources than can be replaced by nature,says King. This is why there is now a worldwide movement to keep human use of natural resources at a level that can be sustained by nature.

There is one other, very persuasive argument we use that convinces money people to re-think their old ideas about equipment-based playgrounds, says King. 

There is now an overwhelming body of research showing a direct link between exposure to nature and the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children. This also means that children are sick less often when exposed to nature, which lessens the overall costs to families associated with children being sick.
King finds that committee and Board members entrusted with decisions affecting child care and school budgets are now realizing they need to find an alternative to the high monetary, environmental, and health costs of a traditional, manufactured, high-tech playground. 

That alternative is a Natural Playground. According to King, whose firm has focused on the design and construction of natural playgrounds for 9 years,
  • Natural playgrounds are designed to expose children to the beauty and wonder of nature while challenging them physically and mentally.
  • Natural playgrounds are sustainable because they use natural resources in their basic form, and do not require components that are not easily replaced by nature.
  • Natural playgrounds have a low carbon footprint, as materials used for them are not manufactured and are generally available locally.
  • Natural Playgrounds provide 3½ times more play items at very high play values for the same dollars spent. For example, a 20,000 square foot 
  • Natural Playground efficiently utilizing all of its square footage cost $50,000 for 70 high play value elements. This cost is compared to one piece of equipment also costing $50,000 but only having 21 items at very low play value and utilizing only 2,500 square feet. 
The Natural Playgrounds Company® found that for the same price, the equipment playground had
  • 3½ times fewer play items,
  • Significantly lower play value,
  • high carbon footprint, and
  • used only 13% of the available land area, was
  • totally non-sustainable, and
  • offered no health benefits of nature. 
The company has been convincing in its argument that this is a very costly approach. 
Other, side benefits of a lower tech, Natural Playground approach include
  • higher enrollment and longer waiting lists,
  • inexpensive solutions to drainage issues,
  • increased wildlife habitats,
  • indigenous landscaping,
  • greening of school grounds,
  • beautification of the property and the neighborhood
  • age appropriate play
  • safer play
  • more, fun options for children of all ages
  • timelessness 
Making the decision to go with a Natural Playground is financially sound and very cost-effective, and improves your bottom line in many ways,says King. 

There is really no other way.

We have so much information on our website. We encourage you to take a look. Please feel free to call us with any questions or concerns that you may have. We would be more than happy to help you.

Monday, November 16, 2015

For those of you who know us, who visit us on social media or know us personally, you are not surprised by our passion regarding children, Nature and our belief that there must exist a healthy relationship between the two.

Yes, our jobs involve designing and constructing play areas, but our "jobs" don't stop there. We are continually striving to share what we learn about the importance of nature and of play with those who are willing and eager to listen.

Recently, we were made aware of this documentary called "The Land". According to the credits, "The Land (2015) is a short documentary film about the nature of play, risk and hazard set in The Land, a Welsh "adventure” playground. At The Land children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own".

This film is supported by Playwork which is a practice and a profession that is said to remove barriers to children's play.  Playwork has a decades long history in Europe and a there exists a rather large library of theory. 

While we continue to educate ourselves in the importance of childhood play, we thought that we would introduce you to this film. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below. We'd enjoy learning your thoughts.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hello to all and Happy October!

Where did summer go? We hope that this post finds you doing well and enjoying the beautiful fall weather we've been having [at least here in New England]. While our southern friends have been dealing with rain, rain and more rain, we've had crisp sunny days perfect for hiking, biking and apple picking!

For those of you who live in New Hampshire, you may have heard of the Mill Brook Gallery & Sculpture Garden in historic Hopkinton, New Hampshire. Owner and President of Natural Playgrounds Company, Ron King, will be presenting at the Gallery on October 14th. Mark your calendars and be sure to attend.

Wednesday, October 14,  6 pm: 
Providing A Space For Creative Play — The Benefit of Natural Playgrounds
by Ron King, Owner and President of Natural Playgrounds Architect

Ron King@naturalplaygrounds (181x268)Architect Ron King started the Natural Playgrounds Company 20 years ago. Natural Playgrounds designs and builds playgrounds without equipment so that children can experience creative, discovery-oriented “play” as it should be and often was for their parents and teachers. The company has designed natural learning and play landscapes in public and private schools, child care centers, public parks, and housing developments all over the country. Educators whose students are fortunate enough to have Natural Playgrounds report that bullying and cliques disappear, children with ADHD calm down, kids with disabilities finally have access to the outdoors alongside their classmates, and teachers and parents say that play behavior is much more creative and inspired. The children who play in these beautiful landscapes develop an aesthetic sensitivity, and a more resourceful and imaginative approach to day-to-day activities (including schoolwork!) and problem-solving. Ron’s presentation reviews the play value and safety myths that govern traditional, manufactured playgrounds and illustrates the way natural playgrounds are transforming and beautifying play environments while inspiring children to think differently about their surroundings and their place in the world.

We wanted to attach a shareable image - !so please feel free to attach this image to one of your posts and share this event information

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Off to the Races! Mud Run, Fitness Challenge Races, that is.

We got started by designing and building #mudruncourses for two event companies, several fitness courses for a New England city, and then mini challenge courses for child care centers, and then realized we should offer these elements to everyone, because obesity is the number one issue is this country due to lack of exercise!

When you click over to our website, you'll can see from the pictures featuring both young children and adults, the elements can be scaled to fit any age group, because no matter what their size, they offer the challenges that increase physical fitness, balance, agility, and awareness of self.

The prices shown listed under the photos on the website are for adult-sized elements, so if you want elements for children, please ask!

Family fitness runs (many of which involve mud :) are great fun and great fund raisers, but lots of times, even though you may want to put one together, buying or setting up the fitness elements are a little beyond your reach, so we have both a rental and an installation program that might help you get over these impasses.

You are interested in a temporary challenge? We can help with that as well. Here’s what we worked out for rentals anywhere in the contiguous US! 

For each element, rental is $684.95 per day of use (we don’t charge for the time elements are in transit), with a 2 day rental minimum. This rental fee includes shipping!

If you want help setting up and breaking down the elements:

For between 1 and 4 elements, we charge a total of $1173.95 per element per day (again with a 2 day minimum). This includes the rental, shipping both ways, installation, and dismantling.

For between 5 and 8 elements, we charge a total of $1078.95 per element per day (again with a 2 day minimum). This includes the rental, shipping both ways, installation, and dismantling.

Call or email us, and let us help you put together a fun and exciting fitness run!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

No One Should Want a Risk-Free Playground!

Happy September!

For many of you reading this post, you've already prepared your children for another school year. Another year of new experiences, new best friends and new lesson plans.

Playground safety is everyone's concern, but protecting children from all harm is simply impossible, and research is also supporting the assumption that protecting children from all possible danger is unhealthy.

Children of all ages need to learn how to manage risk so as adults they're able to handle the risk in everyday living and decision-making.

It's up to you to provide safe or acceptable risk situations on your playground, whether that means your backyard play area or the play yard at your child's school. The more natural you can make your play environment, the more children will be able to experience safe risk encounters that force them to make play decisions teaching lifetime lessons.

Life lessons are not always learned in a classroom. Life lessons very often happen on the playground.

Encourage your children, your students to be careful, but not stop them from experiencing life to its fullest!

We want to wish you a most successful and enjoyable school year!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How Protecting Our Children Can Hurt Them.

We recently discovered this article online by Angela Hansom who is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook. We wanted to share her Three Examples of How Play Outdoors can be Therapeutic because we so appreciate the critical importance of her science and the discoveries that she, and so many others in her field, have made regarding children and their need for physical exploration.

As you read Hansom's examples, we'd like for you to remember your own youth and what playing outside meant to you. What lessons you learned. What bonds were forged. What scraps and bruises healed and were replaced by childhood memories that will never be forgotten.

Three Examples of How Play Outdoors Can Be Therapeutic:
  1. Sledding: If you are lucky enough to have snow, sledding is a great sensory activity, especially if you frequently change positions on the sled. For example, if children go down the hill on their bellies, keeping their head and legs up in a superman position, this activates the vestibular (balance) system and improves body awareness over time. Flying saucers send children around and around, helping to establish a good sense of space.

  1. Walking barefoot in the woods: Walking barefoot on uneven terrain helps to challenge and strengthen the muscles in the ankles and develop the arches of the feet. It also helps to develop a reflex in the foot that helps prevent toe-walking. The sensations of dirt, sticks, and leaves on the bottom of the feet develop healthy touch senses and furthermore, assist with preventing sensory defensiveness on this part of the body. Running through the woods teaches children to effectively and efficiently navigate their environment, while challenging their balance at the same time.
  2. Rolling down a grassy hill: Rolling down the hill helps to provide necessary deep pressure to the muscles and ligaments – improving the proprioceptive sense. This sense is fundamental in helping children accurately regulate how much force to use when playing games like tag, coloring with crayons without breaking them, and holding a baby chick without squeezing too hard. Also, as the child rolls, they are spinning, which helps to develop a strong vestibular (balance) system.
If you'd like to read Hansom's complete article, please visit

For more information about Natural Playgrounds, visit our website at

If you'd like to share a few of your childhood memories with us, please leave a comment below.