Designing for Play in Nature

Robin C. Moore, Raleigh, NC

ABSTRACT: “A healthy planet and healthy childhood are intimately connected”, emphasized Robin Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture at North Carolina State University, Director of the Natural Learning Institute. Pure play, out of sight of adults, usually with friends and peers, is key to the way children learn - tacitly, through direct experience. Recreation and education are embedded in a well-designed, compelling place that offers interesting, exciting rewards for exploration and play.

To design such places, affordances offered by the play environment need to be rich and multi-layered, so that the child may make new discoveries every day; there must be a repertoire of behavior settings that also allow the child to interact with and change the environment; and there must be a small intimate pathway system, that encourages movement between spaces, exploration and discovery. He emphasized that environments that support play must be related to children’s daily lives, and presented examples from some of the 50-60 demonstration programs for which the Natural Learning Institute has helped guide the design.

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