Natural Playground | Turtle Rock Preschool | Infant, Preschool and Kindergarten Child Care in Irvine

Our Natural Playground and Outdoor Classroom

Leading the way in nature-based outdoor learning

When we set out to revitalize our outdoor play space in 2011, we chose to make more than mere improvements. Our vision was to connect children with the natural world by providing unstructured, natural play with endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Our overall plan was custom designed by the Natural Playgrounds Company, the leading national experts in the field, and features many different areas such as a hand pump with wood sluiceway, sand pits, a shallow stream and water wall, a rock scramble, and a water patio with splash pads. The first and second phases have now been completed, transforming our Nursery, Preschool, Junior Pre-Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten play spaces.

The playground provides children with infinite ways to play and discover their world using natural and safe elements such as flowers, gardens, trees, rocks of all sizes, water features, hills and valleys. There is also a wood climbing wall, sunken fort, stage, whimsical playhouse, incline bridge, and willow tunnel. The yard features a stone labyrinth as one of the therapeutic play elements that have been found to calm children, especially those who have attention difficulties.

Teachers and children together care for herb, vegetable, and wildflower gardens. Wood art panels and musical elements, such as a musical fence (xylophone) and pebble harp will encourage children to express themselves through creative arts.

Leave No Child Inside

What is a “Natural Playground”?

Natural playgrounds are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex interplays of natural objects in ways that challenge and fascinate children, and teach them about the wonders of the natural world while they play within it. Natural playgrounds focus on creating settings that enable the type of play most important to young children: social play (pretending) and constructive play (building). These settings encourage children to use their imaginations while simultaneously experiencing the smells, textures and wonders of the natural world.

Our new Natural Playground ensures that our children will have a wonderful place to go outside where they can both play and learn.

A meaningful difference

Developmentally, the first six years are the critical years of a child’s life, where we literally mold their mental and physical health. This is the best opportunity we have to effect positive change in their lives and their health. There is now an overwhelming body of research showing a direct link between exposure to nature and the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children – including reducing ADD.

Benefits of natural play:

  • Children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills. Single use, repetitive play equipment becomes boring quickly.
  • Natural, irregular and challenging spaces help kids learn to recognize, assess, and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence.
  • Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.
  • Bullying behavior is greatly reduced where children have access to diverse nature-based play environments.
  • Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder are reduced after contact with nature.

Children who play regularly in natural settings are sick less often. Mud, sand, water, leaves, sticks, pine cones and gum nuts can help to stimulate children’s immune system as well as their imagination.

Children who spend more time outside tend to be more physically active and less likely to be overweight.

Children who play in natural settings are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioral disorders, anxiety and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth.