Nature play transformations for MercyCare early learning centres
MercyCare Early Learning Centres in Thornlie, Bedford, Seville Grove and Heathridge in Western Australia have had their playspaces renovated to provide environments for children that encourage risk taking, imagination, natural tactile investigation and interaction.
Through transforming the outdoor spaces, the group said it hoped that children of all ages would come together to utilise the space in “a loosely structured way”.
Highlighting research which has shown that children who play in natural settings have more opportunity to develop gross motor skills, the group said the outdoor play spaces would also reduce stress and encourage children to play in more imaginative ways.
“The natural, irregular and challenging spaces also help children to recognise, assess and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence,” a spokesperson said.
The newly renovated environments feature log-edged sand pits and soft fall areas as well as climbing frames and balancing ropes. The new equipment varies between the centres depending on the age groups involved.
Shade has been an important consideration in the design of the spaces, which are flexible use, and feature deciduous shade trees that will grow to be a key feature and provide natural shade in summer. Small flowering native trees have also been used to give an extra splash of colour and interest.
Shrub and screening plants were chosen for both their sensory and hardiness characteristics to give the children stimulation through the senses of sight, smell and touch while standing up to any physical interactions they may encounter.
A variety of apple trees, orange trees, vegetable and herb gardens also provide children with the chance to learn about where food comes from, how to care for plants and to watch things grow.
A spokesperson for MercyCare said that contact with nature has been associated with a number of health benefits for children, such as improved cognitive function, increased creativity and improved interaction with adults.
The new features of the play spaces have not only been warmly welcomed by the children, who have been making the most of them, but also by staff and parents.
For more information about MercyCare Early Learning Centres, visit their website.