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Why We Need Nature Based Playgrounds Equipment and Design

Today, the green movement is in full scientific force. Though the days of full-time hippies and mass protests seem to be behind us, people everywhere are doing their best to go green. From reusable shopping bags to tiny homes, to a washing machine that operates with a foot pedal and backyard gardens, there are a lot of ways for people to go green without giving up their quality of life.


Eco-friendly urban planning could be called something of a new frontier. City planners are getting together and looking at ways to reduce the environmental impact of a city. Parts of California went so far as to regulate some aspects of architecture, to make heating and cooling a home more efficient. People in the field agree that urban park planning is important. When a city is mostly concrete, or any other material that reflects and contains the heat energy from the sun, temperatures in cities rise. This is called an urban heat island, in which the temperature around, in, and above the city is higher than areas around it, disturbing natural climate and wind patterns.

With a new understanding of the environmental impact, cities have on even climate, urban park planning as really taken off as a practice. Parks are being designated in new places, to provide essential patches of soil to help absorb sunlight, lower temperatures, and help the citizens who live in the city experience a little bit of nature. The average part can, however, get a little tedious. A stretch of grass and trees is fun for walking, for running, for admiring. There might be reflection pools or ponds, even a lake with fish. Certainly, adults will enjoy it and, depending upon city regulations, children should too.

But where do playgrounds fit into this equation?


It isn't surprising that people don't usually think of green parking and modern playgrounds in the same thought. Consider traditional play equipment for parks. Everything is metal and plastic, with hard concrete or padded rubber flooring. They are efficient and engaging for children, but also are industrial and inorganic. Since the equipment can mass produced, many playgrounds seem more and more alike. More than this new sense of repetitive design, modern play equipment is not as good for the environment as it could be. Petroleum-based plastics have been proven to emit trace amounts of toxins that accumulate over time. This means that rain or snow will carry these toxins to the surrounding soil, making it less suitable for the life that depends on it.

Some modern playgrounds are not providing the necessary green space to benefit the areas they are built in. When the sun shines, the equipment and ground are blistering hot. Perhaps a state-of-the-art jungle gym in a neighborhood, looking shiny and new, can make collections of slightly dingy apartments seem like a better place to raise children. Playgrounds, no matter what they are made of, are a universal display of a community that supports and encourages the next generation in the form of donating that land to their amusement. Children need to play outside, for their own good.

Now imagine a playground that could fit into the urban green planning scheme. Not a metal tower, but the natural twist of a growing tree. Think of grass or dirt under those children's feet, and leaves above them. Picture play equipment that doesn't trap the heat of the sun. Imagine children playing outside, climbing a jungle gym made of wood or rock that can't poison the surrounding soil when it rains, as plastic does.

All of the above reasons are why communities have a dire need for nature-based playgrounds. For the environment, yes, but for the little ones as well. Children's play equipment influences them, the way they see things. When children play in nature, they learn to respect it. Those children will see the beauty of what's outside, the importance of the trees and the grass. They'll see a burst of green among concrete, a haven of urban green design that they want to have fun in. The community will be able to see not a maze of metal and plastic, but children climbing trees. Children scaling rocks.

With urban green design including natural playgrounds, people will be able to see the environmental movement for what it is. There is no purer symbol of the concern environmentalists feel for the next generation than an eco-friendly playground. This extra care shows a consciousness towards helping everyone go green, no matter their age.