How to Build a Natural Playground

Over the idea of a giant plastic playground? A natural playground incorporates nature and recycled materials for ideal childhood entertainment.

This summer, Nature’s Way joined forces with the Children & Nature Network. Our goal, inspired by their mission, was to motivate people and families to spend as much time out in nature as possible. We even challenged our own employees to spend a little more time outdoors and a little less time in front of their screens. One of the most exciting challenge submissions came from Integrative Therapeutics Senior Brand Manager Priya Backos, whose family made a natural playground completely out of nature and recycled materials. Cool, right? Below, get all the details on the project straight from Priya, including how you, too, can build a natural playground for your family.

 

My family loves spending time outside. Whether we’re hiking through the woods, biking in the city, or picking fruit from a farm, we're always seeking ways to enjoy the great outdoors and connect with nature. We find that we are all our best selves when we've spent more time outside!

About two years after moving into our house, we were finally ready to turn our attention to our backyard. The yard was full of divots, there weren’t any vegetable or flower gardens, and there wasn’t a play structure for our kids. Because of our love of nature, we wanted a backyard retreat we could enjoy during the weekdays and that could grow with us. Mandatories were pollinator-friendly, native plants, a vegetable garden, and a special place for our kids to play. We debated if we wanted to purchase a playset or a playhouse, but ultimately decided to try a Nature Playground.

The play structure is an edible garden. They play in the mint, rosemary, chives, lavender, potato plants, and the pumpkins that have spilled over from the raised beds to their natural playground. The best part is every year we can plant more herbs and vegetables and can change the look and feel of the playground.

We got the logs for the steps from a tree that was being taken down on our boulevard and the slide was repurposed from a neighbor whose kids had outgrown their play structure.

Our challenge is to play in our backyard and on our play structure four days a week. We’ve made a fairy garden inside, we write with chalk in the tunnel (we made the tunnel extra large so it can become a hideout as our girls grow!), we’ve made a waterslide, and we play a lot of tag.

Just 15 to 20 minutes of playtime together in our yard gives us a chance to connect without phones or to-do lists. We have fun, feel grounded, discover, and eat the cool things growing on our natural playground.

Does Priya’s Nature Playground sound like something your family would love? Here are a few simple ways to get started:

1. Include a sensory garden — it doesn’t have to be gigantic! Let your kids grow and harvest their own food and flora. Fill it with whatever you can: herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

2. Fairy gardens are a favorite with kids. Build it next to your biggest tree and let them choose their fairies, fairy houses, and other accessories. (For a more sustainable fairy garden, check out your local thrift store or Buy Nothing Group.)

3. Try out a DIY construction set. Include items from around your home and garage like old tires, ropes, extra tarp, burlap, boxes, whatever you can find! You can easily make a super cool fort to hang out in or design an obstacle course.

4. Include nature wherever possible. Old tree stumps make for an excellent table, and cut logs are a good start for an obstacle course. Long grass? Excellent for hide-and-seek.