Let ‘Em Go Wild!
Nature Play in Your Parks
A child’s adventure is only as limited as their imagination in natural play areas, whether they are exploring a wooded, fantasy forest in search of hidden treasure or climbing a windswept mountain peak on a make-believe expedition.
Natural play areas are park features made of natural elements or inspired by nature, which are meant to provide a different sensory experience than modern plastic and metal play structures. They are designed to invoke more creative, free play.
In natural areas, kids are encouraged to walk or hop across stumps and logs, race up a cluster of boulders or play tag with friends in a log forest. Using built-in hand water pumps, children can mix sand and water to build sand castles – getting their hands dirty and exploring in the process.
Uniquely named at Bend Park and Recreation District, Wildside play areas are specially designated natural play areas within parks for free-form play. Imagine a vacant lot where you may have created bike jumps or built forts as a kid. Wildside spaces are outside of pristine habitat or developed areas where it’s okay to be creative. Children are encouraged to dig, stack logs and even create their own forts and other structures with logs, tires, PVC pipe and other materials.
Both spaces enable children to connect to the natural world, encourage physical activity and set the stage for independent exploration. Spending time outside has numerous proven health benefits including reducing stress, improving sleep, boosting the immune system and even reducing ADHD symptoms according to studies cited in the National Guidelines for Nature Play and Learning Places by the Natural Learning Initiative, National Wildlife Federation and US Forest Service. Experts have shown that children need access to nature the same way they need good nutrition and adequate sleep. In addition, these studies have shown that natural play areas can help foster an affinity towards nature and inspire the next generation of conservation minded community members.
In recent years, Bend Park and Recreation District has been working to provide more natural areas for kids to play, explore and learn as the community grows and residential areas increasingly offer less immediate access to natural spaces.
We hope you enjoy these natural play areas and inspire you and your child to go wild!