Trends: Nature Play and Adventure Playgrounds

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

Nature Play and Adventure Playgrounds are one of the hottest trends in playground design. Nature Inspired Playgrounds are requested frequently in early education centers, preschools, day cares, and kinder-age school playgrounds. Education about how nature play benefits children's development is one of the biggest reasons for the increase in demand. Studies show that when children spend time outside enjoying nature, they experience endless physical, cognitive, creative, social and emotional benefits.

Help Kids Get Exercise

A Nature Playground can provide a place for kids to get the exercise they need to be healthy and fit. By climbing, crawling, swinging or skipping, kids will burn energy and build muscle strength and coordination. A Nature Playground can feel more adventurous to kids which can encourage them to stay active for longer and keep them coming back time and time again.


Imaginative Play

Self-led free play is something kids don't get enough of in this generation. A lot of children's play comes from structured play. We need to get back to this important form of play. Even though structured play is still beneficial, when a child is given the freedom to play themselves, they can learn more independence, develop their creativity and enhance their self-confidence.

Many times children use the play equipment offered for its intended purpose but you always see those few kids using things in an outside-of-the-box way. While some express caution with this type of play, its actually a good thing to have a child use a piece of equipment in a safe way that is different than it's intended use. Nature Playgrounds usually have equipment that isn't super obvious on how it should be used. This open-ended design can help engage a child's imagination.

Promote Social Play

When kids engage in free play, they're also likely to engage in another important type of play - social play. Independent play has it's own benefits, but playing with other children offers so many benefits. Kids that play together on the playground learn to communicate, problem-solve and empathize with others.

A Nature Playground offers so many options for kids to make up fun games, pretend scenarios which make play so much more fun! Kids coming together to dream up, fantasize and explore their play space have a more fulfilling experience and come away from play with new memories and special connections with others.

Engage All the Senses

Sensory play is another important type of play especially on a Nature Playground. Sensory play can help kids develop more self-awareness and process their feelings. Time spent in nature can engage all the senses in ways that can be both calming and invigorating. Nature Playgrounds tend to be sensory-rich environments. Kids can feel various textures like bumpy wood bark or smooth river rocks or grainy sand. They can smell the flowers and other natural plants and hear a babbling brook stream or water fountain. They can engage their vestibular system as they balance on a log or exercise their proprioception sense as they climb up a rock wall or hill.

Instill a Passion for Nature

Children sometimes can feel disconnected from nature with all of the electronics and screen time they engage in. A Nature Playground is a way to encourage a child to be more connected to the natural world around them. Spending time outside is known to boost their mood and improve their health and they are more likely to care about the environment when they grow up. It's important to instill a love of nature in our future generations.

A Nature Playground design should aim to create many different possibilities for using the equipment and initiating play. Before you begin designing its important to consider what functions you want the playground to support. There are many options, and the right composition and choice of equipment can ensure a combination of several functions such as: climbing • balance • motor skills • inclusion • training • sensory play • sand and water play • exercise • quiet areas

Using Nature to Your Advantage

When there are obstacles in the way of a new playground design, like trees, mounds of dirt, or rocks and boulders, they can often be looked at as challenging for the designer to move from the space. Change the way you look at the obstacles by including them into the overall design. Using excess soil for an embankment or hill slide is an option or you can also use natural rocks as part of the design as a border or in addition to other nature inspired play equipment.

Creating Special Spaces in a Nature Play Design

Adding elements such as sun shades, awnings, hammocks, sensory gardens and sensory elements can create special spaces in a Nature Play design. Using natural materials to surround the spaces such as plantings, hedges or rocks can create a "room-like" feel to the spaces.

Inspirational Nature Product Lines

We want to inspire you to consider Nature Play for your next project. We offer several brands of play equipment that can transform any space into a beautiful natural playground with the safety and durability you've come to depend on from us.

Norna/HAGS - Playing "Without Rules"

Our NORNA/HAGS equipment offerings are made with the highest quality wood and focus on providing a high play value. We want children to grow up in a space where they can discover, learn and challenge themselves - entirely naturally.  We want children's imaginations to go wild and to challenge their creativity and stimulate their motor skills.  The basic concept of NORNA/HAGS nature play is play “without rules” which the children create by themselves without outside control. Specifically, this means that we offer nature playground equipment which can be used in as many ways as possible. For example, there are countless possibilities for what a climbing tower or the components of a balance course could be to a child.

Photo Credit: Lisa Winner Photography

Designed for Sustainable and Creative Play

NORNA/HAGS is known for making playground equipment and creative natural playgrounds, all of which are designed and manufactured sustainably, in the best quality and with a focus on providing high play value. Sustainability spans all facets at NORNA/HAGS. Apart from FSC®-certified wood and an FSC®- certified factory, they work constantly towards minimizing their environmental impact throughout the value chain.

FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) is an international marking scheme for sustainable wood. The FSC® mark documents that the products stem from forest areas that are used sustainably. • The FSC® has a broad approach to sustainability – and it works with the financial, social and environmental aspects.


Playground equipment from NORNA/HAGS is developed with extreme care and using sustainable materials, which means it can have a very long lifetime. NORNA/HAGS primarily uses Robinia wood for its equipment. In addition, they also use Douglas and Siberian larch. These types of wood are generally delivered untreated.

NORNA/HAGS is the only company in the world to develop a modular pre-drilled system for Robinia wood. They call it SMART ROBINIA®. Many types of wood have a limited lifetime upon contact with soil. This is where Robinia wood is different by having a lifetime of up to 32 years upon contact with soil.

DID YOU KNOW THAT: Robinia comes with its own natural defense that ensures excellent resistance to rotting and mold. It is therefore possible to entirely avoid using toxic treatment.

Miracle Recreation - Adventure Awaits!

Nature-inspired playgrounds combine the wonder of the great outdoors with durable and safe play equipment. Nature's Choice playground equipment combines nature-themed elements such as logs and rocks with the Miracle playground structures to provide a natural play experience full of adventure and movement! Replicating the essence of climbing trees, scaling boulders, and role-playing brings the excitement and wonder of the wilderness to life. Merging nature-inspired features with the benefits of quality materials and design provides an affordable, low-maintenance solution for a play-space.

Nature-Inspired Manufactured Play Equipment

Nature-Inspired Manufactured Play Equipment from UPC Parks blends the beauty and wonder of nature with the safety, durability and age appropriateness found in manufactured equipment. Each of the components is designed to look and feel as real as possible, providing an authenticity kids love, from rugged boulders to logs that feature a real bark-like texture. As kids maneuver through rope equipment, rocks and stumps, they build upper body and core strength, preparing them for further adventures beyond the playground.

PolyfiberCrete® Material

PolyFiberCrete® is a revolutionary synthetic sandstone. It is a blend of lightweight materials which retain exceptional grip texture for climbing. The texture is the same on the surface as it is 8 inches deep, which means your climbing grip can never wear off. It doesn't crack or shatter so it's super durable and low maintenance.

Elephant Play - Connecting Kids with Nature

Elephant Play believes the best way to work with nature is to understand it and learn from it. Nature encourages non directed play and a different sensory experience. From a small stepping stone to an entire tree shack, kids will find their own way in a world full of possibilities. Go wild!

Want to learn more about Nature Play?

Check out our Nature Play Resource Page!