Biophilic Design for a Natural Playground – Top Tips

6 Jun, 2024

Biophilic Design for a Natural Playground – Top Tips

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As a homeowner you may find yourself with an opportunity to create a new garden. Consider a biophilic design for a natural playground which is so good for children and adults alike. Read on to learn our top tips for a biomorphic outdoor space that stimulates all the senses for you to enjoy at home.

A Natural Playground: Biophilic Design for a Fun and Engaging Children’s Garden

young girl taking a photo of a a plant in a raised vegetable bed
Preparing a good biophilic design means you and your children can engage safely with nature outdoors

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

You may not be aware, but biophilic design isn’t just for adults – it’s making waves in children’s playgrounds too. The concept of a natural playground, rooted in biophilic design principles, generates an intriguing fusion of fun, learning, and engagement.

It’s not merely about adding a few plants; it’s about creating an interconnected ecosystem that stimulates children’s curiosity, encourages active play, and fosters a deep-rooted connection with nature. Curious about how this all works and the potential benefits it could offer to your little ones? Let’s explore this innovative approach to play spaces further.

Understanding Biophilic Design

Before we explore creating an environmentally friendly garden for children, it’s crucial to first understand what biophilic design involves. Biophilia, a term coined by the German psychologist Erich Fromm and popularized by American biologist Edward O. Wilson, refers to the innate affinity humans have for nature. Biophilic design, as such, is an approach to architecture and landscape design that seeks to connect people more closely with nature.

Now, imagine this concept applied to a children’s garden. You’re not just planting a few flowers and calling it a day. You’re designing a space that stimulates a child’s innate love of nature, fostering their curiosity and respect for the environment.

This could mean incorporating elements of water, such as a small pond or a bubbling brook. You could include different textures of plants for tactile exploration, and even add elements that attract wildlife, like bird feeders or butterfly bushes.

Biophilic design is about all the senses

But remember, biophilic design isn’t just about what you can see. It’s also about what you can hear, smell, and touch. The rustle of leaves, the scent of flowers, the feel of bark under little fingers – these are all integral to creating a truly biophilic children’s garden.

a young girl touching plants in a garden
Choose suitable plants for your biophilic garden to ensure children are engaged and stay safe

Photo by Thar Pyae

Benefits of Natural Playgrounds

Undeniably, natural playgrounds, brimming with organic elements and opportunities for unstructured play, offer a treasure trove of benefits for children’s physical health and cognitive development.

While traditional playgrounds may limit your child to swings and slides, natural playgrounds inspire a wider range of physical activities. Your child can climb rocks, balance on logs, or scramble over tree stumps, all of which help improve agility, balance, and hand-eye coordination.

But the perks don’t stop at physical health. These environments stimulate creativity and problem-solving skills as children navigate through natural obstacles. Your child isn’t just playing–they’re learning how to assess risks, make decisions, and invent games. They’re building an understanding of the world, a sense of place, and a connection with nature that’s often lacking in our screen-saturated world.

Furthermore, natural playgrounds encourage social interaction, cooperation, and conflict resolution. When kids create a fort from branches, for example, they learn to work together, negotiate, and respect others’ ideas.

Choosing the Right Plants

When it comes to infusing life into your child’s garden, picking the right plants can make all the difference. The selection process involves more than just aesthetics; it’s about creating an engaging, interactive, and safe environment for your little ones.

Here are some key points to bear in mind:

  1. Look for child-friendly plants. Choose plants that are non-toxic and safe for kids. Plants like marigolds, sunflowers, and snapdragons are great options. They’re colorful, hardy, and can withstand a bit of rough play.
  2. Think sensory. Opt for plants that offer a variety of textures and scents. Consider plants like lavender for its calming aroma, lamb’s ear for its soft, tactile leaves, or mint for its invigorating scent.
  3. Consider maintenance. Select plants that are easy to care for. Kids will enjoy being part of the watering and pruning process, so choose plants that don’t require complicated care.

Companies like Cultivate – biophilic design advocates can help you choose the perfect plants for your child’s garden.

little girl smelling a daffodil
Ensure all the plants you choose for your biophilic design are safe and child friendly

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina

Incorporating Animal Habitats 

Moving beyond plant selection, another engaging aspect of biophilic design for your child’s garden is the integration of animal habitats. By incorporating spaces for creatures to live and play, you’re not only creating a lively environment, but also an educational playground that allows kids to learn about local wildlife.

Consider adding a birdhouse or a butterfly bush to invite avian and insect visitors. You could also install a small pond or water feature to attract frogs, dragonflies, and other water-loving species. But it’s not just about adding elements; you need to create a balance. Too many feeders might attract pests, so you’ve got to be careful.

It’s also essential to research which animals are native to your area and design accordingly. You wouldn’t want to attract creatures that could potentially harm your children or the garden’s ecosystem.

It’s all about creating a safe, interactive space where kids can observe and learn about the natural world around them, right in their backyard.

Innovative Design Elements

There are many ways to how to incorporate biophilic design. Countless innovative design elements can profoundly transform your child’s garden into an engaging, interactive space that ignites their curiosity and love for nature. Let’s explore some components you can incorporate for a fun and educational outdoor experience.

  1. Edible Landscapes: Encourage your child’s green thumb by integrating edible plants. They’ll enjoy watching their food grow, and it’s a great way to introduce them to gardening. From sunflowers, strawberries to cherry tomatoes, the options are bountiful.
  2. Nature Art Station: Design an art station using natural materials. It’s not just about painting and drawing. Your child can create sculptures using rocks, craft collages with leaves, or make a wind chime out of twigs. It’s about fostering creativity through nature’s palette.
  3. Water Features: A small pond or a bubbling brook can significantly enhance your garden’s sensory appeal. Not only does it provide a soothing sound, but it also attracts a variety of wildlife for your child to observe.

Safety Considerations in Biophilic Design

While designing an engaging and interactive children’s garden, it’s equally important to prioritize safety in your plans, ensuring your little explorers can roam and learn without any unnecessary risks. As you sketch out your biophilic design, consider incorporating smooth, rounded structures to minimize injury from sharp edges. Use non-toxic plants that are both attractive and safe for curious hands and mouths.

Safety doesn’t have to stifle creativity though. You can integrate elements that encourage safe exploration. For instance, use soft, fall-friendly surfacing around play areas, like rubber mulch or sand. Create gentle slopes for kids to climb and roll down, rather than steep, risky inclines.

Ensure paths are wide and unobstructed, and keep visibility clear, so you can always keep an eye on the young adventurers. Use sturdy, weather-resistant materials, remembering that durability is a key factor in safety. Plan for adequate shade and hydration stations to protect against the sun and heat.

Lastly, incorporate signage that educates about safety measures in an engaging, child-friendly manner. You’re not just creating a playground, but a place where kids can safely interact with nature. With careful planning, your garden can be a haven of both fun and safety.

Encouraging Environmental Education

Through your garden’s design, you can spark children’s curiosity about nature and foster a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship. It’s all about creating interactive elements that encourage exploration and understanding of the natural world. You’re not just crafting a playground, you’re nurturing future environmentalists.

  1. Incorporate native plant species: Teach kids about local ecology by including plants native to your area. They’ll learn about the unique characteristics of these species and their role in the ecosystem.
  2. Create learning stations: Add elements like insect hotels, bird feeders, or sundials. Each station offers an opportunity to learn something new about the environment.
  3. Introduce composting and gardening: Let children get their hands dirty. Show them how to compost, plant seeds, and nurture them into mature plants. This hands-on experience gives them a tangible understanding of the circle of life.

Examples of Biophilic Playgrounds

You’ll find inspiration for your children’s biophilic playground in many successful examples around the world, each showcasing unique ways to weave natural elements into engaging and educational outdoor spaces.

  • The Tinkergarten program in the United States – uses local parks as classrooms, encouraging kids to learn through play in nature. They build dens, dig in soil, and explore wildlife, fostering a strong connection with the environment.
  • Kew Gardens in London UK – is another stellar example. They’ve created the ‘Children’s Garden’, a space filled with bamboo tunnels, sand pits, and a tree house, all made from sustainably sourced wood. It’s a haven where kids can play, learn about plants, and develop a deep appreciation for nature.
  • The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden in Sydney Australia – This dedicated are in Centennial Park is a wonderland of water, rocks, trees, and shrubs. It’s designed to engage the senses and stimulate imaginative play, while educating children about native flora and fauna.

Each of these examples uniquely integrates the principles of biophilic design, creating spaces that nurture children’s innate affinity for nature. They’ll spark ideas for your own children’s playground, showing that biophilia isn’t a trend, but a way to foster a lifelong love of the natural world.

Child walking through a biophilic garden
A biophilic garden will stimulate the senses

Photo by Archie Binamira

Maintenance of Natural Playgrounds

After drawing inspiration from these remarkable examples and creating your own biophilic playground, the next step is guaranteeing its longevity through proper maintenance. Don’t think of this as a chore but as an opportunity to secure your playground remains a place of joy, engagement and discovery for children.

  1. Regular Inspection: Keep an eye on the natural elements in your playground. Check for signs of wear and tear, particularly in areas of high use. Trees and plants need to be inspected for disease or damage, and replaced if necessary.
  2. Seasonal Care: Different seasons will require distinct care. In autumn, you’ll need to remove leaves and other debris. Winter may require the protection of certain elements, while spring is the perfect time for replanting and refurbishing worn out areas.
  3. Safety Measures: Guarantee all play areas remain safe. Loose materials like wood chips or sand may need replenishing to maintain a soft landing for children. Regularly check any installed equipment for stability.

Your Biophilic Design Garden in Conclusion

Isn’t it exciting to envision a playground that not only entertains but also educates our children?

With biophilic design, we’re nurturing a generation of nature lovers, fostering their physical health and cognitive development.

From selecting the right plants to thoughtful animal habitats, each step is an opportunity to create a vibrant, safe, and environmentally-friendly play area.

So, why not transform our children’s playgrounds into natural sanctuaries that inspire curiosity, creativity, and care for the world around us?


At Housesit Match we often share practical ideas and information for our members. Here are some useful links for some of our earlier gardening blogs. We hope you enjoy them and find them of use.

Create the perfect garden – 7 Top tips

Home gardening safety tips – Green thumb 101

Gardening tips – How to stop insects eating young plants

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