Child's Space, Child's Identity


As the temperature increases and the breeze becomes friendlier in carrying beautiful scents of blooming flowers tickling our souls, every child become filled with energy and joy to explore the outside world and start their outdoor classes outside their houses and away from their confined schools.


This beautiful urge must not be crushed since previous studies have stressed the value of children's experience of place and their special preferences for the un-built and unstructured environment. Still the importance of natural and open-air playgrounds have been neglected in physical planning of cities on a large scale as much as it has been ignored when building private villas with private gardens. These small and large spaces, if found, offer children a sense of place, self-identity, and belonging and can act as remedy to social hostility, vandalism, and violence.


Children begin their lives by using their senses and motor abilities to gather and interpret information about their environment. They have a basic need to establish a deep emotional connection to the natural world which in turn provides intrinsically interesting, open-ended settings that stimulate exploration and discovery, dramatic play and imagination. When the senses become dulled through lack of use at a young age, a child may lose, forever, momentous ways to derive satisfaction from his surroundings. Results such as fearful responses to natural settings including fear of plants and wildlife might affect his liveliness and appreciation of his surroundings. When children play in nature and healthy exterior spaces, they are more likely to have positive feelings about each other and their community; the restlessness and the general inability to focus are dramatically reduced.


Natural landscapes have qualities to meet the children’s needs for a stimulating and varied play environment. Diversity in landscape elements such as volumes of vegetation and topography might be considered a dimension of quality for a natural "playscape". Levels and heights created from earth soil, shrubby areas designed in masses, even trees that allow or disrupt the views create mystery and enjoyable atmospheres. The more varied and rich the outdoor settings are (e.g., rocks, running water, varieties of colors and sounds, and the wide range of permitted activities); the greater its contribution to the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of the child.


An outdoor space in your private home land which combines natural environment and enriched settings of activities and scenarios is considered a unique site especially when there is a lack of public gardens and community spaces in the region. Therefore, the success of our efforts will be measured by our ability to increase the child’s instinctual temptation to reach out and see their world and the people in it, and then to adapt to, manage, or change it once they experiment and learn how.


Spaces for movement, spaces for rest, spaces to discover one's self and surrounding, a simple structure to climb on or allow a climber to trail on or a unique colorful kind of shrub can transfer the child to another world filled with inspiration. The mission here is to design a safe, accessible outdoor environment with numerous opportunities for all young people to reach out and learn while they have fun. We do this by merging natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms and structures. These perfect settings offer unique inspiring combinations of harmless, pleasurable, and challenging play and exercise opportunities that also teach about nature, science, math, and general well-being. 


There are various ways to improve your outdoor space for your children; by reconsidering the use of space inside the garden, is it used effectively? What more fascinating things can be added? A space can be thought of as a multi-functional space accommodating a full range of moods, energy levels, and sociability.  


Increasing the use of water features by adding shapes of water fountains and unusual patterns of water falls or "surprise nozzles" and even hoses and sprinklers would add dynamicity to the garden as well as stimulate their senses in hearing the sound of splashing water as well as touching the water and disrupt its movement routine, this would give the child a chance to manipulate the natural elements without causing damage specially when mixing water with sand and dirt that allows the child to make and unmake sculptures and forms.


Being creative in the choice of plantations and the design of the "softscape" will promote their sense of aesthetic value and their willingness to contribute in the conservation of nature. By observing the plant life and entering the dream world of aged trees, colorful shrubs, conceited climbers and masses of ground covers and greenery, children will be keener in examining the exciting circle of living things in a small ecosystem; they will be able to understand the circle of life by watching the appearance of a pink flower on a stone fruit tree after emerging from a bud, which has filled the bare dormant branches of that tree as winter season passed upon the garden. Tasting the fruit created from this flower and watching the tree grow in size as the child grow in size will hearten the children to preserve the delicate balance between the human being and the environment.


You can engage the child in the garden even more by letting him/her try planting small plants and herbs in multiple pots and planters and then care for them as time passes by. Encouraging birds, butterflies and miscellany of wildlife can be initiated through introducing artistic bird feeders, bird baths, a rabbit area, and colorful butterfly gardens. Breeding Pets in a garden like dogs, turtles, or even cats can be wonderful for a child to enhance his/her emotional development as well as his recognition that he is a part of a bigger sensitive ecosystem.


To develop their cognitive and social skills, create small niches and spaces to lean-to, a playhouse or even a tree house to be alone in as well as larger areas for multi-aged family members and friends and wrap it with a tarp or a curvy tent for more drama and imagination; to gather in and encourage role-playing behavior and foster social development.


Take advantage of natural materials like leaves, pods, driftwood, and various sizes of stones to make a child play with different colors, textures and shapes and provide a range of sensory experiences. Permit autonomous actions when adding loose parts to use and reuse such as wheels, wood pieces, wagons, and tools.


Physical development is associated with motor activities such as running, jumping, and climbing. Through these activities, children know their bodies, become aware of their abilities and limitations, and develop their self-esteem by learning particular skills such as places to balance ( beams, logs and stumps ) and spaces to jump from and into such as platforms or raised areas. Adding more loose parts like wagons, wheelbarrows, balls, bags, jump ropes, buckets, shovels, sifters, bicycle tires, tubes, and tubs and introducing skeletal structures like simple benches, ladder-like frames, and hurdle like Structures create simple dangers of obstacles in order to avoid great dangers in the futures paying attention to safety issues. A small wall can create a vivid environment by hanging a basket for children to throw balls in.


Outdoor play spaces are thus beginning to be referred to as "outdoor classrooms," or "discovery play spaces" or "natural playgrounds" because of the opportunities they offer for social, physical, psychological, and emotional development, for nurturing a child’s instinctual affinity for the natural environment, and for helping to create the foundation for wonderful memories briefing the child of an understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things and to inspire stewardship of our natural resources.



Published on Home Magazine June 2008 by Eng. Zeena AL Jaajaa


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