Children gain great benefits as they grow connected to and develop an appreciation of the natural environment. In the structured, busy and technologically-advanced world we live in, the role of outdoor play that we experienced as children is being forgotten. Playing outdoors develops resilience, self-confidence, initiative, creativity and more. It encourages the joy of movement; it nurtures wild imaginations, experimentation, friendships, social connections and behaviour.
At IELC, $250,000 was invested to develop a purpose-built space to ensure each child’s imagination could run wild. A nature-based play environment was designed by the children and their families in collaboration with educators and designers, and includes rocks to jump on, a tree to climb, a lookout tower, a treehouse and water play areas including a creek, water wall and mud kitchen.
In 2017, the outdoor space won an award in the Play Spaces category at the Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture annual awards. The jury singled out the creative, bespoke nature-themed design that embraced the natural backdrop of the space. Several innovative design solutions addressed the topography of the site including a climbing ramp and lookout tower that bridged over an existing retaining wall.
Tracey Ellaway, Immanuel Early Learning Centre Service Leader, agreed.
“Generations ago, it was a given that children would climb trees and play in the mud. These days, we’ve lost touch with these basic elements. At IELC, children will experience what their parents and grandparents did and found most beneficial,” said Tracey.
"When children are in touch with nature, they are much calmer. We want them to manage their own risk, while playing in the safety of a supervised playground," she said.
Research suggests children need to have risks in their learning environment to build confidence and resilience.
"It is important to the children that their outdoor space is like a park or a nature reserve," she said.
“Every day we see the joy on their smiling faces and for us, that’s the measure of a winning design.”