Dallas Moms Blog is excited to partner with Dallas metroplex The Little Gym locations for a weekly sponsored series on children’s health and fitness!
Spring will be upon us shortly in Texas. In an effort to get ahead of the game, last month we put in an outdoor play area to give Nicolas a convenient place to burn off some energy. The attractive-looking climbing structure that I was sure Nicolas was going to love has been left virtually untouched. Instead, he is captivated by mud, rocks, and mulch. This observation has left me wondering: Should we have simply just invested in a pile of dirt?
While playing in the dirt is not a new concept, the concept of a natural playground has recently emerged. As adults, we tend to be attracted to the big, colorful, exciting new playgrounds for our children. But the reality is these “playgrounds” might not be providing the types of outdoor stimulation of which developing children thrive. Playground expert Joe Frost has not-so-gently stated that modern playgrounds are “dumbed down” for children’s cognitive, social, and creative development. They tend to be heavy on safety and light on imagination.
Natural playgrounds or “playscapes” provide a break from traditional playground equipment in favor of activities that encourage open-ended play and creativity—all the while connecting children to nature. Fortunately, these innovative playscapes are popping up all of the U.S. Here in Dallas we have an incredible example within the Jewish Community Center (JCC). The proper name of this space is the Rubin Family Playground – but it is also commonly called the J Naturescape.
Even if you do not have regular access to a “proper playscape”, there are many components that are easy to incorporate in our own backyards.
Use natural variations in landscape to your advantage, this small hill was turned into a slide.
Pieces of logs and branches can be used as blocks, or to stack and build structures–Lincoln Logs anyone?
These old CDs have been painted and turned into outdoor art.
Use old pots, pans, and kitchen utensils to make an outdoor kitchen space.
Hanging a sheet makes an easy hammock for little ones.
Allow them to add some color through the use of fabrics.
We encourage you to head out and explore “natural playscapes” on your own or use these inspirational ideas from our “Soar into Healthy Habits” Pinterest Board to create a playscape in your own backyard as an excellent way to encourage healthy, active behaviors and develop cognitive development.
For more creative ways to build healthy habits and develop key skills like concentration, decision making, balance, and coordination, head into a Dallas area The Little Gym class and see ways they’re using similar equipment indoors to help build creativity through open-ended play — even when the weather isn’t cooperating outdoors!
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Please Note :: The Little Gym is graciously sponsoring our “Soar into Healthy Habits” series…and we would not have it any other way! We are passionate about all that they are doing for children and moms, and we encourage you to contact them to to try an introductory experience to help support you in keeping your kids healthy and happy!
To learn more about The Little Gym’s programs for ages 4 months to 12 years, make sure to visit their website or contact a location nearest you!
You’ll find The Little Gym at the following locations throughout the Dallas metroplex:
• Preston & Forest; Dallas
• Mockingbird & Abrams; Dallas
• Preston & Park; Plano
• Preston & Stonebrook; Frisco
**Photos Courtesy of The JCC