Create a Nature Play Area

Nature play areas are spaces intentionally designed to integrate natural components into a place for structured and unstructured play and learning. Instead of (or in addition to) conventional metal and plastic play equipment, nature play spaces feature natural items, such as stump steppers, log seating & tables, plants, natural “loose parts” for building and making art,  water, sand, creative pathways, and more. Natural play spaces offer greater opportunities for creativity than a conventional playground can, while connecting children and nature and promoting future environmental stewardship.

Tip: Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school indoors and out!

Before You Start

Form an Action Team

Overview: Project Planning Basics

Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature Info-Sheet

Nature Play Areas: Frequently Asked Questions

Nature Play & Learning in Early Childhood: Tips & Resources

Design and Preparation

Conduct a School-Wide Healthy Living Audit

Conduct a School Grounds Site Assessment

Nature Play Area Basics: Components, Activities, Photos

Consider Design Options:

  • Nature Play Spaces Pattern Book: Project Green Classrooms
  • Schoolyard Design Guide (Boston Schoolyard Initiative)
  • Affordable Settings & Elements: Cost Effective Ideas
  • Top 10 Activity Settings: Natural Learning Initiative
  • Earthplay: 5 Nearly Free Do-it-Yourself Nature Play Projects
  • Play Outside! Database of outdoor play and learning resources
  • Critter Fun: Wildlife Habitat Projects
  • Embankment Slides
  • Vine Teepee Info-Sheet
  • Plants in the Schoolyard
  • Install Features for Observation & Discovery
  • Pinterest: Search for Creative & Easy Nature Play Ideas
  • Also See: Resource Center below (products, project photos, etc.)
  • Project Design & Preparation Basics


    Create a Healthy Living Action Plan Sample Action Plan

    Create a Healthy Living Action Plan Blank Action Plan

    Project Implementation Basics



    The Green Desk: Dynamic Question & Answer Resource

    Also See: Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time


    Project Maintenance Basics

    Review: Safety

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Install Features for Observation & Discovery

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Nature Play & Learning in Early Childhood

    Educator Tools: Science STEM & Environmental Education Supplies

    Eco Schools Healthy Living Pathway & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Schoolyard Infographics: Children & Nature Network

    Host a Screening of the Film “Nature Play”

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Nature Explore
    Nature Explore: Learning with Nature Resources
    Natural Learning Initiative
    Natural Playgrounds: Links to Natural Play Resources
    Let the Children Play
    Nature Playscapes: Bringing the Wild Back to the Child
    AHS National Children and Youth Garden Symposium
    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Schoolyard Habitat Guide
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)