Canberra’s new nature playgrounds have been designed to encourage climbing, jumping and exploring. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Like many two-year-olds around the country, Frederick Kunzelmann lives in an apartment without a backyard.
So a new nature playground at his local park is a welcome addition.
Three new natural playgrounds will officially open in Canberra this weekend in Tuggeranong Town Park, Finn Street Park in O’Connor and Telopea Park in Barton.
The urban nature playground in Telopea Park is ideal for two-year-olds like Frederick Kunzelmann who lives in an apartment. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Back to basics
Nicole Sadlier, the founder of Sticks and Stones, Canberra’s first outdoor playgroup, hopes the new parks will encourage more parents to get outdoors with their kids.
“Nature play is a term we’re hearing more often in relation to children’s play, but it’s nothing new,” she said.
“It’s the way most children have played for centuries.
“So many kids aren’t given that freedom to get out in the bush so we need to bring those opportunities into urban areas.”
Teddy Dahlstrom and mum Clare spend lots of time at their local nature park exploring each of the natural play stations. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
A taste of the bush
The new parks have been carefully designed by landscape architects to mimic the bush.
“When you go there you’ll find lots of fallen logs for children to be able to balance on,” Ms Sadlier said.
“There are structures for the kids to climb up and you’ll find tunnels to climb through, native foliage and rock formations for them to explore.
“All those textures of nature adds to the sensory stimulation for children.
“We want to give children opportunities to be in touch with nature.”
The Finn Street playground features a natural amphitheatre with rock seating, a dry river bed and a grassy maze. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Stepping stone for cautious parents
Ms Sadlier said giving children the freedom to explore nature would propel their development.
It would also help their parents, she said.
“We also want parents to feel comfortable with their kids climbing trees, climbing on logs, playing in the grass or playing with dirt.
“These parks are a stepping stone to going and playing in the bush and nature reserves around Canberra.”
The nature playgrounds would encourage parents to actively play with their kids rather than sit by and watch, Ms Sadlier said.
“At these parks, parents can help their children learn to manage risk in adventurous activity.
“So many of the newer playgrounds around don’t have tanbark anymore, they have soft fall.
“These playgrounds are designed to stop children from being injured but the environment isn’t as rich.
“So if children are going from their carpeted house to a footpath, to the soft fall of a park, they’re not experiencing the challenges of different surfaces in varied terrains.”
A dry rock river bed connects the amphitheatre at the Finn Street Park to a tree stump obstacle station. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Outdoors in every season
And while spring weather is on the way, Ms Sadlier said the parks were the ideal play space all year round.
“In our playgroup, our focus is to have children playing outdoors in all weather conditions so they become comfortable being outside,” she said.
“Children thrive on being outdoors — experiencing the changing seasons, hearing the birds and searching for insects.
“It’s an opportunity to teach your children to check under rocks for crawly creatures.
“If we’re disconnecting children from that because we’re scared they might see a spider or a snake, then we’re really limiting their experiences.”
The official opening for the parks will take place on Sunday at 9:30am (Tuggeranong Town Park), 11:30am (Telopea Park) and 2:00pm (Finn Street Park).
The celebrations will feature rock hunts, nature sculpting with clay, parkour workshops, face painting, orienteering and tree plantings.
Further event details are available via the Sticks and Stones Playgroup Facebook page.