"Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them." –Francesco Guicciardini
WITH KIDS IN MIND
In the Fall 2002 isue of The Director's Link from the Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University (www.nl.edu/cecl), Vicki L. Stoecklin observes...
"When adults are outdoors they admire a healthy lawn, a nicely tended vegetable garden, and beds of beautiful flowers. When children are outdoors, they're crawling under bushes, digging in dirt and climbing anywhere their legs and sense of adventure take them. This is why outdoor areas designed by adults often fail to delight their intended audience. When we give children what they want, as opposed to what adults think they want, those outdoor play areas look entirely different than the traditional playground....
"The goal of designing children's outdoor play environments is to use the natural landscape and vegetation in the play setting ...as much as possible as the core elements of the space. The natural environment needs to read as a children's place, a world separate from adults, one that responds to a child's own sense of time and place. We call places like this discovery play gardens to distinguish them from traditional playgrounds.
"...Children value more natural landscapes and the adventure and mystery that come with hiding places and wild, spacious uneven areas. They also appreciate animals, creatures in ponds, and other living things as well as different levels and nooks and crannies, and places that provide shelter, shade, privacy, and views. Discovery play gardens should provide that, along with openness, diversity and opportunities for manipulation, exploration and experimentation.
"A discovery play garden requires a lot of gear to make it work. That doesn't mean designed gear like swings or slides, but elements like sand, water, props and naturally found objects that allow children to control and manipulate the environment. The structures in play gardens, as much as possible, should be made of natural materials such as logs, stumps and boulders, and should use the landscape in natural ways with berms and mounds....
"Outdoor play areas should flow from one area to the next, be as open-ended and simple as possible, and encourage children to use their imaginations. The space needs to be perceived by children as their space, rather than adult's space. It is also important to have continuity between the outdoor and indoor space, so that transition between the two is almost seamless and the outdoors is seen as an extension of the classroom rather than a retreat from it."
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