A year and a half in the making, a pilot project in developing the first Naturalized Playground at a licensed centre in Lennox and Addington took effect after the Director attended a Limestone District School Board session on Naturalized Playgrounds and it’s benefits for play in November 2014.
As studies show that children are loosing the benefits of playing outdoors among natural elements for long periods of time (the good ol’ days when we were small!), and appear to be having more screen time with various devices, going back to the roots of outdoor play with natural elements, such as rock, wood, grasses and water has shown great strides in children’s overall health and development.
Lamplighter was approached after this session to be first pilot project on developing a natural playground and this was accepted whole heartedly! The steps would come in three phrases – training students from Ernestown Secondary School in the ICE TOOL KIT (Innovative, Creativity and Entrepreneurship) by the Ministry of Education’s Student Success & Learning branch, French-language Education Policy and Programs Branch and the Rotman School of Mangement from the University of Toronto.
The second phase entaled the students breaking into groups after listening to the requirements, suggestions and desires needed by Lamplighter (and the children!) to build the playground for the Preschool yard and the Toddler/Infant yard. They would then present their designs to be chosen for the build.
The third phase had the students trained in chainsaw skills and landscape techniques to help in construction of various projects in the design (benches, log borders, sod laying, planting etc..)
With our move completed November 2015, various fundraising activities still on going, consultations with various agencies for funding, design ideas accepted, and final Ministry approval, our Naturalized Playground is expected to be completed by fall 2016!! (See ‘Easle Paper Draft 2’ of appoved design).
Our playground will incorporate rock in our dry river beds which can hold water (but will slowly drain) for play, sand area with log, stump and rock border, Pergola for shade and outdoor group times (to be eventually covered in vines), vine and willow tunnels, wooden hiding huts, log and stump balancing with mulch fall zone and hill slides with mulch exit areas. We will encorporate the five senses in plantings for sight, sound, smell, touch and feel.
The benefits of exploring through tall grass, textures of natural elements and learning to take care of their play yard will develop a sense of well-being and belonging. It will encourage expression through socialization with peers, language and body development and most of all, children will be engaged and focused in these natural elements …..and when that happens, children thrive!