What is a children's nature playscape?

A nature inspired landscape set aside in which children are encouraged to engage in creative unstructured play with natural elements in a park-like setting.


"I believe this (Children’s Nature Playscape on Bronson Park) is an opportunity for our diverse community to be able to come together as families in the center of our city. It will promote the diversity, equity and inclusion needed for the city of Kalamazoo and surrounding areas. Our youth are growing up in the digital age and are becoming less likely to go outside and have fun while exercising their bodies. I believe in the need for a playscape in the heart of Kalamazoo."

Sidney Ellis, Executive Director, Douglass Community Association

Loose Natural Materials

Logs, rocks, dirt, and sand

Environmental elements

Trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, lichens, mosses

Typography elements

Boulders or other rock structures, mounds, natural fences

Built play features

Textured pathways, zero-depth water features, nature education platform

Why a playscape?

What is the need?

32,000+ children are 10 and under in Kalamazoo county.

  • 1 in 5 children are obese and at risk for diabetes, depression, attention deficit disorder.

  • Children with little access to outdoor recreation opportunities are most susceptible for poor health where the perception is that parks, natural play areas, and playground are unsafe.

  • 7,000 children under the age of 14 in the City of Kalamazoo live beyond a 10-minute walk of publicly accessible play areas.

  • 29% of children live below poverty level so more likely to experience stress and depression that hinders health, development and readiness for school and other developmental outcomes.

  • Stress of changed routines and social distancing during pandemics can disproportionally affect young children because of their limited ability to understand the global situation (Needle & Wright, 2015).

What are the benefits to children?

Boost cognitive development

Increases concentration

Improves impulse control

Grows motor control

Stimulates creativity

Helps children cope with uncertainty

What is the impact?

1,500 children between the ages of 2 and 10 live in a 10-block radius of the property.

Enhance community health through increased time spent in nature

Nature access (or lack thereof) is a public health issue. We can reduce health disparities by creating and promoting use of natural areas where more children can learn and play, and where families can safely engage in active living, improving the physical and mental health of communities (Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities).

Strengthen families through quality time together in nature.

Families who spend time in nature develop strong bonds, better communication and enjoy time together (Together in Nature: Pathways to a Stronger, Closer Family, 2015).