What are natural play spaces?

A natural play space resembles a playground or gathering area with natural material transformed into play structures. They are ideal for parks, municipalities, or community organizations. Some structures at natural play spaces include tunnels, mazes, climbers, and other unique events. Natural play spaces are also referred to as nature play, natural play areas, or outdoor play areas.

Overhead view of 2 nature play areas with a teepee hammock, tunnel, and maze

Is a natural play space right for you?

Read through the considerations below to determine if a nature play area is right for your organization. 

Yes, Install a Natural Play Space

  • Nature play spaces are ideal for parks, municipalities, and communities with low traffic, more supervision, and a dedicated maintenance crew
  • Opportunity to incorporate local elements including community heritage or culture and local landscape material
  • Requires structural engineering from a professional to mitigate risk and liability
  • Plan for an annual maintenance plan to keep the space safe and beautiful
  • Include proper instructions for supervision at the outdoor play area

No, Don’t Install a Natural Play Space

  • Nature play spaces are not for schools because of high traffic wear and tear, less supervision, and increased maintenance needs
  • The vendor isn’t an experienced contractor with natural play
  • The vendor doesn’t partner with a certified landscape architect to design the area

Natural Play Space Case Study: Lower Sioux Indian Community

The Lower Sioux Indian Community in Minnesota is a long-time partner of SafetyFirst Playground Maintenance for regular playground repairs. When the Lower Sioux Indian Community remodeled their Community Cultural Center, they wanted an alternative to traditional playgrounds while still providing a children’s play area. It was important that the featured space matched their recent remodel but was still a functional space for playing and gathering.

The solution was a natural play space! Or in this case, 3 distinct natural play spaces equivalent to about 3,000 square feet.

Overhead view of the 3 nature play areas in front of the Community Cultural Center

Why choose a natural play space?

The Lower Sioux Indian Community chose to build a natural play space because:

  1. Ability to incorporate their culture
  2. Could resemble the area’s natural landscape where the Community Cultural Center is located
  3. Opportunity to use Minnesota’s locally-sourced, natural material to create the features and structures

Our Natural Play Space Process

We met with the Lower Sioux Indian Community multiple times to discuss:

  • The cultural importance of the outdoor play area and how we can achieve it
  • Go over the design elements to finalize the plans
  • Discuss the cost so the natural play space remained within budget

With the help of our architect partner, AFLA Landscape Architects, we were able to design a structurally sound space.

After the natural play space plan, budget, and timeline were finalized, our team got to work! We first procured all the local natural materials.

Next, we followed the design plans to mold the natural materials into play structures, community features, and seating areas. Once completed, we created the space and installed the equipment, all in-house. This included concrete work, painting, and all other aspects of the project. The Lower Sioux Indian Community enjoyed communicating with only one partner for the entirety of their project since our SafetyFirst team manages outdoor play areas from start to finish.

The natural play area equipment included:

  • Circular community meeting space
  • Custom concrete inlay that resembled their flag
  • Wooden color accents that matched their tribe colors
  • Teepee hammock net
  • Log climbing areas with crawl tubes resembling fallen trees and boulders
  • Tree maze area with various cuts to the logs and painted ends
  • Seating around the border

The Results

Through collaboration with the Lower Sioux Indian Community, we were able to understand the goal and vision of the outdoor play area. Today, the Community Culture Center features natural play spaces meaningful to their community by resembling the natural landscape and integrating their heritage

Work with a Qualified Natural Play Company

At SafeyFirst Playground Maintenance, we are an experienced natural play company serving parks, municipalities, and communities across the Midwest. We transform your nature play visions into reality through local materials, meaningful designs, and ongoing maintenance care. 

Learn more about natural play spaces!