Creating an outdoor setting
Guides, reports, studies and projects offering insights into designing, creating or improving your outdoor setting to provide safe, inspiring, accessible opportunities to play and learn outdoors.
Arranged, as much as possible, in chronological order.
Natural Play Spaces Can Benefit Children’s Health, study finds
“Playgrounds that mimic the natural environment have physical and mental benefits for preschool children, according to a study … coauthored by professors at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville” (US). 9 July 2019.
Outdoor Play Equipment For Children With Sensory Processing Disorder
Starting with a definition, its effects, and how schools can help children with SPD, the benefits of the outdoors on this group is followed by a list including mud kitchens, water & sand play, and a magnifying glass. Pentagon, 26 June 2018.
London Study of Playgrounds
The Influence of Design on Play Behavior in London vs New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. A comparison of 16 playgrounds in London with US provision to understand the influences of the design of playgrounds on play behaviours and physical activity levels in children and teens. Findings address 1. Design for all ages 2. Play everywhere 3. Think outside the catalogue 4. Play grounds are for play 5. Risk is a good thing. Studio Ludo (US), December 2017.
Inclusive Play Design Guide
‘An inclusive playground accommodates everyone & challenges them at their own developmental level. This guide was developed … as an inspirational & educational resource to help create great outdoor play environments for everyone. It offers a set of strategies & solutions to the challenges that face communities in their journey to inclusive play.’ Playworld, 2015 (US), on Accessible Playground.
Interesting backyards make the best playgrounds
Blog post with ‘some ideas on how to create a backyard that is more child-friendly and conducive to creative play’. With a look at loose parts, mud, water and more. Treehugger, 11 September 2015.
Natural Learning Initiative
Free practical information downloads for outdoor settings - including: creating a wildlife garden, shade solutions, affordable settings and components, acoustic play settings, earth play settings and natural construction settings.
Nature and Young Children, by Ruth Wilson
Encouraging Creative Play and Learning in Natural Environments. ‘How to set up indoor & outdoor nature play spaces as well as encouraging environmentally responsible attitudes, values & behaviour in your early childhood setting … a wealth of ideas on how to foster creative play & learning in nature-focused environments while also promoting positive connections with nature.’ 2012.
Nature Play: bringing the ‘wild’ back to the child
Report exploring natural playscapes and the benefits of nature play, including 5 steps for designing a nature playspace, and case studies of projects that have successfully done it. The Wild Child, 2012 (pdf).
Design Principles for Nature Play Spaces
in Nature Centers and Other Natural Areas. “… a set of principles and practices to guide our work. These are not scientifically proven, absolute, or etched in stone. Rather, they represent Green Hearts’ best judgement and analysis, based on our experience. We share them here to help (you) think through core principles and key design issues for spaces intended to recreate the wonderful, nature-based play that so many of us enjoyed during our youth.” 2009 (pdf).
Reimagining outdoor learning spaces
Primary capital, co-design and educational transformation. ‘This handbook focuses on the use and utility of outdoor space for play and learning, and aims to support those thinking about redesigning their outdoor spaces.’ A Futurelab handbook, on NFER, January 2008.
Earthplay outdoor design case studies
9 case studies looking at the transformation of play spaces in schools, kindergartens and pubic parks in Berlin, Germany. Each case study focuses on a different theme: choice, risk & challenge, Nature with a capital N, play machines, sand, shade & setting, topography, variety & texture, and water.
Five nearly free do-it-yourself playscape projects
“Here are five simple projects to start you on your way toward a multi-sensory natural playscape. They’re not difficult or complex. They just take a little bit of creativity and time. Alter them to suit your own needs and licensing requirements. Do you have any parents who could help you? Spirited staff? Don’t forget to include children in the process.” From Earthplay.
The Good School Playground Guide
This Good School Playground Guide highlights the possibilities and priorities when designing and improving school grounds for play and learning. Whatever your budget or scale of ambition, this guide will help you develop outdoor spaces which will help make your school the best place to grow up in.
The Green Desk
‘A resource for early childhood educators, childcare providers, administrators, and professionals seeking the latest information to create high quality, healthy outdoor environments for young children.’ Natural Learning Initiative. See also NTL’s research section – ‘research of children’s outdoor environments to generate new knowledge that may support evidence-based design’, and infosheets which ‘highlight specific aspects of landscape design or design programming.’
A Guide To Inclusive Playground Design
‘Inclusive play is the creation of environments for play that serve sensory, physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of all children in a community, regardless of ability.’ AAA State of Play (US).
Kaboom: Build a Playground Toolkit
‘Designed to walk you through the process of how to create a community-build playspace. From fundraising to volunteer recruitment, the Toolkit can help you take your project from start to finish with over a decade’s worth of KaBOOM! knowledge, advice, and best practices in building playspaces.’
Kaboom: DIY enhancement projects
‘Step-by-step instructions to transform the area around a playspace into an inviting place for your community’ – including instructions for building stages, benches, planters, fences, picnic tables, bins, and tons more – a great resource!
Projects to Encourage Outdoor Play & Learning
Great resource! ‘Learn to create engaging outdoor learning and play environments to improve student health and reconnect children with nature.’ Includes a complete guide to Create a Nature Play Area and Outdoor Classrooms, Labs & Habitats. From Bay Backpack.