Nature Play Meets Risky Play


This study looked at how introducing risky play through the use of natural elements, such as plants and trees, influences children’s development and well-being.

Recent generations of children have had their natural play environments substituted with pre-fabricated play spaces that optimize safety and risk reduction with little regard for children’s developmental and play needs. This study arose from concerns that societal and parental attempts to keep children safe may have gone too far when it comes to children’s opportunities to play, particularly outside.

We examined the effects of an intervention to increase access to nature and challenging play opportunities in the outdoor play environment of two childcare centres with low quality play spaces. Early Childhood Educators observed improved socialization, problem-solving, focus, self-regulation, creativity and self-confidence, and reduced stress, boredom and injury.

The findings suggest the importance of intentional design of outdoor environments to promote children’s wellbeing and development.

Funded By

Generously supported by the UBC and Hampton Fund



Herrington, S., & Brussoni, M. (2015). Beyond physical activity: The importance of play and nature-based play spaces for children’s health and development. Current Obesity Reports, 4(4), 477-483. DOI: 10.1007/s13679-015-0179-2

CTV News – Adding natural elements to playgrounds can help depression in kids [link

The Globe and Mail – Kids happier in play spaces with elements of nature [link]