Aspetuck Land Trust has built the areas first hands-on natural playground at our Leonard Schine Arboretum in Westport! Officially open on June 12th, 2010 the playground, designed for children ages 3-7 and built with natural materials found on the preserve, was inspired by a similar playground at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It comprises approximately 10,000 square feet in a meadow and has areas for fort building, digging, tea-parties, tower-climbing, trail-walking, stick-stacking, nature collages and more! There is even an elvin village where younger visitors can play with pine cone dolls, honing both their imaginations and their fine motor skills. This is a great place to meet for a play date or to bring the grand children!
The Natural Playground was voted one of the Top 50 Playgrounds in the U.S. by Early Childhood Education Zone.
All of the play areas have been constructed out of natural materials, primarily red cedar, found natively in the Leonard Schine Preserve, and sticks, logs, saplings, pine cones and acorns collected by a volunteer corps made up of Land Trust members and volunteers. Thank you to all the volunteers who built this amazing place through which children and parents will explore nature for years to come. For more information about the preserve and a detailed map, click here.
Aspetuck Land Trust believes that there are numerous benefits derived from outdoor play in a natural setting; fresh air, exercise, and imaginative play to name a few. ALT Executive Director, David Brant commented: Today's children have access to many wonders of technology, ever increasing their awareness of the world they live in. Unfortunately, a downside to the use of technology is a phenomenon that experts are calling the "nature deficit disorder". According to the Kaiser Family Foundation researchers, Children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years spend an average of 1.5 hours with electronic media on a daily basis, whereas children between the ages of 8 and 18 years spend an average of nearly 6.5 hours a day with electronic media.1 For more information about the importance of nature and the outdoors for children and for childrens nature books, we recommend the following:
- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
- James Prosek, Bird, Butterfly, Eel
- Keith Faulkner, The Wide-Mouthed Frog
- Douglas Florian, Nature Walk
- Megan McDonald, Inserts Are My Life
- Jennifer Ward, I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature
- Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
- Richard Wiese, Born to Explore
- Children & Nature Network website