On way home from Newfoundland to Ithaca, sitting in the Halifax, Nova Scotia airport. Just had a great trip to St John’s, Newfoundland to give a keynote talk all about the natural playscape movement. Folks there are EXCITED! Talking about the natural playscape REVOLUTION. I like that.

Right now many many play spaces for children in Canada are flat fenced-in areas covered in Pea Gravel. After showing loads of nature play pictures and possibilities I had the group of 250 early childhood professionals do an interpretive dance with me where we took on the character of a piece of pea gravel and slowly, slowy transformed ourselves into a fresh blade of grass. ah…… how liberating!  How freeing! (how silly, I admit, but fun too)

During my trip I got to visit 3 local childcare settings where folks are working to transform their yards into diverse, beautiful natural play spaces for the children they serve. The first was a parent co-op with lots of enthusiasm and a nice grassy yard (no pea gravel). they have loads of energy and parent support for the project.

The next site I visited was south of St John’s about a half hour past Witless Bay. This play yard is going to be a part of a community center, family resource center, and retirement home. Right now its under construction. We talked about how we could add hills, boulders, lookout plateaus, and lots of plants. a creek runs right by the center. I could picture a moose coming out of the hills to enjoy a drink from the creek.

Nice boulder. Children should have The Rock on their playground on “The Rock”, eh? (Newfoundland nickname)


Then I visited a center housed in a full retirement home inspired by the Eden Alternative movement for elder care. (creating inspiring living places for elders by adding plants, creating a home-like atmosphere, complete with pets…and children). Right now they have an existing play space which is full of…pea gravel.

But then around the corner they have the “residents garden” which is an amazing nature yard that the children get to visit everyday. (originally built for the elder residents it is used most by the children with elders watching the fun out the nearby windows). Nice gazebo!  My advice to them on how to improve their play yard? Remove the pea gravel and make the space more like the resident’s garden (but messier! with lots of loose parts, logs, sticks, stumps, sand, etc)

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