Natural Play & Narrative

Philip Waters, Cornwall, UNITED KINGDOM 

Natural play is becoming increasingly popular with practitioners as an approach to maximising the value for the children involved. Compared to the use of fixed and over-designed play equipment, natural play relies on the use of the landscape and 'loose parts' such as sticks and stones. As well as providing the exercise benefits of play, this approach encourages high levels of imagination and creativity , problem solving skills and collaborative social interaction. Despite the typical focus of this approach on green spaces at the Eden Project we have demonstrated that there is scope for implementing forms of natural play even within quite urbanised settings and within buildings as long as the right kinds of prompts are provided. Our Mud programme is designed to encourage outdoor play and over the last three years it has engaged over 60 000 people in activities such as den building. This paper will review the activities and evaluation undertaken.

When reflecting on the best facilitation for natural play we have become focused on the question of narrative as an important creative prompt for starting an activity. Eden Project is a highly 'narrated' environment (not just through the use of text but also through visual cues and art) and there are many ways in which even some small and almost un-noticed prompts can transform the appreciation and energy within a person's experience. Examples will be presented.

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