New Natural Playscape Project Kicks Off in Charlotte

First in a series of planned Natural Play Areas, site is intended to increase natural recreation opportunities

10-10-2011 // Max Greenberg
Natural Playscapes

Volunteers from National Wildlife Federation, the Charlotte Nature Museum  and the ScottsMiracle-Gro Company Company convened this weekend to begin transforming outdoor spaces into natural playgrounds for kids, with an eye toward increasing opportunities for children nationwide to engage in unstructured play in and with nature.

The Charlotte Natural Playscape, which is scheduled to be officially unveiled in the spring of 2012, is the first in a series of planned Natural Play Areas intended to increase natural play opportunities.

The campaign is an integral part of a broader goal of connecting children with nature, both for their health and the future of the conservation movement. Recent studies have shown that children between the ages of 8-18 are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago, instead devoting an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media in a typical day. By creating outdoor spaces conducive to creative and stimulating natural play, NWF and its partners aim to put some of the nature back into childhood.

“The health and developmental benefits of regular contact with nature for children are significant, and this project will help bring nature to the daily lives of children,” said Allen Cooper, coordinator for the National Play and Learning Areas project at National Wildlife Federation. “The Natural Play & Learning Area Guidelines project seeks to transform America’s playgrounds, schoolyards, childcare centers, museums and zoos into quality natural play and learning areas. National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State University will develop guidelines for natural play areas, and bring rich natural play and learning to the daily lives of every child.”

“Charlotte Nature Museum’s roots are firmly planted in connecting children and families to the natural world. The creation of this Playscape allows children to inquire, reflect, take risks, run and play all while inculcating a sense of wonder and excitement about the outdoors,” said Lisa Hoffman, Director of Charlotte Nature Museum. “It affords kids the opportunity to be kids, while educating parents on best practices that can be implemented at home.”

Through Scotts’ support, the groups will also collaborate on a homeowner ‘how-to’ guide and model installation that focus on how parents can transform their own backyards into natural play and learning areas for their families.

“We need to cultivate the next generation of caretakers of nature-–and where best to start than in one’s own backyard?” said Jan Valentic, Senior Vice President of Regional Marketing for ScottsMicracle Gro Company. “We are very excited about the partnership with NWF and Charlotte Nature Museum – to create a showcase that helps parents learn how easy it is to create a healthy and innovative landscape for their children to be stimulated by nature’s color, fragrance, texture, sound and taste – and to create natural settings that inspire imaginative play in and with flora and fauna.”

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