Nature Play & Learning Places

Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature

Kids on a natural playscape

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Parents, educators, conservationists, and recreation professionals are seeking more challenging and creative ways to connect kids with nature and the outdoors, and these guidelines are a resource for planning, designing, and managing quality natural play and learning areas. The guidelines draw from principal author Robin Moore’s extensive landscape design experience, case studies of 12 existing nature play areas across the country, and the contributions from representatives from more than 20 national organizations.

Explore the executive summary to learn about planning, designing, and creating a place for nature play and learning; to navigate risk and site management challenges; and to see inspirational photos of nature play, and learning places from across the country.

Kids on a natural playscape in Oregon 


Robin Moore, Landscape Architect   Allen Cooper



  • Endorsements

    “Ensuring children have the chance to regularly experience and interact with nature is a priority for local parks and recreation. With these guidelines in hand, park and recreation departments can design, build and maintain successful nature play areas in any type of community for all people to enjoy.” Barbara Tulipane, CEO of National Recreation and Park Association.

    “It is more important than ever that we work in every community to reconnect people with wildlife and nature and Nature Play & Learning Places will help conservationists, educators, and recreation professionals to work on that shared goal.” Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation.

    Nature Play & Learning Places offers essential guidance for designing places we need. We need to provide our children with natural settings in which to play, learn, and thrive. We need to help them form emotional bonds with the abounding beauty of flowers and trees, rivers and streams, critters and clouds. We need them to be fascinated by these things, to grow into close and careful observers of the world around them, to feel not only appreciative but protective, and to be prepared to live their lives accordingly. This is a public health strategy, an environmental strategy, and educational strategy…and a path to the future we want.” Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H., Dean, University of Washington School of Public Health.

    “Nature play and learning places are an innovative and fun way to connect families with our public lands. These guidelines can help us improve children’s health and learning at the same time that we encourage appreciation for wildlife and natural systems.” Fran Mainella, former director of the National Park Service and a visiting scholar at Clemson University and project steering committee member.

    “In order to build and sustain vibrant communities, we must offer children an opportunity to connect with nature. The framework provided through ‘Nature Play & Learning Places’ helps design places where children will develop an appreciation for the outdoors and to sustain those places for future generations of environmental stewards," said Jennifer Jehn, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful.” Jennifer Jehn, President and CEO of Keep America Beautiful.