The playground as a garden for everyone

The term sustainability actually comes from forestry. Only so much wood was to be felled in the forest that the forest could grow back under its own power. Sustainable development in children is understood to include the ecological, economic, cultural and social dimensions. For the planner, this means designing an outdoor space that allows nature to be experienced in these four dimensions.

A garden in itself is already full of sensory impressions. By looking at the elements of fire, water, earth and air and designing corresponding areas according to a focus in each case, I not only create different spaces, but much more. I experience the air by flying through the air on a swing, getting to know the centrifugal forces of a carousel or feeling the wind in my face when I slide down. In addition, you should (be allowed to) climb trees as a child. Who does not remember the airy favourite place of his childhood, the branch fork up there. And how great is the new perspective on the world below!

The element of water, on the other hand, is a sensual element that amazes even small children. Together with the element earth, children can learn about the nature of the materials and live out their creativity while splashing about. But the earth can do more, it is the source of our food. It is essential that children have contact with a kitchen garden, which can accompany sowing, growing and harvesting, in order to appreciate the food that comes from the earth, e.g. fallen fruit. But the earth also produces trees and with them the sustainable material wood. Because of its unique feel, wood is the material of choice for me in playground construction.

Why not learn to handle fire with care in kindergarten? Even though fire is actually a danger at first (I recall the rhyme "Knife, fork, scissors, light is not for little children" in "Der Struwwelpeter" by Heinrich Hoffmann), it is an exciting adventure for children to light a fire and be allowed to watch and observe it. It is an archaic experience deeply rooted in us to prepare meals at the fire or to grind flour ourselves and bake bread with it.

As a planner you can therefore make a valuable and sustainable contribution to a fundamentally responsible way of acting.  We can equip children with a healthy self-confidence and give them an appreciation for Mother Nature and her resources as well as their protection.

Children who are allowed to develop this sensitivity towards nature will later be used to actively participate in shaping play areas and a part of our society.


Text: Stefanie Hermann, Garten für alle

Nature experience