Nature Play & Edible Landscapes

By | May 01, 2017
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nature playground
Photos courtesy of Neighbor Space

A Playground for the Imagination

Kids and gardens and play. Could they be symbiotic? How can one meld kids playing outside with edible gardens? At first, I grit my teeth as I imagine kids trampling through my fruits and vegetables. Although there would need to be a lot of education and empathy creation, I believe there is no fight between the two worlds.

So often we divide and relegate certain activities to sections of the garden: reading area, ornamental garden or vegetable garden. What if there were no divisions? Run through grape arbors. Hide in teepees of pole beans and honeysuckle vines. Play make-believe with sticks and stones and perform with colorful scarves on a stage under the shade of American persimmon. Jump from boulder to boulder between soldiers of columnar apples and columnar Asian pears with groundcover of pot marigolds and punctuations of sunflowers and prairie drop seed grass. Create mazes and labyrinths of red and champagne colored currants.

pile of herbs
playing in nature

According to the National Wildlife Federation, "The idea behind a nature play space is that instead of the standard, cookie cutter metal and plastic structure that make up the bulk of today's playgrounds—people can incorporate the surrounding landscape and vegetation to bring nature to children's daily outdoor play and learning environments."

Robin C. Moore, a professor of landscape and architecture at North Carolina State University and a leader in the nature play movement, helped write national guidelines for the natural learning initiatives in the publication Nature Play & Learning Places.

If we can follow the strategies offered by Professor Moore and the Wildlife Federation, we could change the play pattern of a generation.

Imagine offering children the opportunity to lay back on a Jens Jensen—inspired stargazing mound covered in creeping thyme and oregano and watch the clouds drift by and perhaps catch a star or two in the evening while fireflies dance about. It would be the edible garden version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A real delight.

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