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Go Ask Mom

Playground Review: Blue Jay Point County Park's Nature Play Area

Posted March 14, 2013
Updated March 15, 2013

Nature play areas are among the popular trends in playground construction these days. Here in the Triangle, we're seeing more and more of them.

The play areas are a big change from traditional playground with monkey bars, swings and slides. Instead, they rely on natural materials such as stumps, tree "cookies," sticks and other items. The goal is to provide a place where kids can explore and play on their own, creating their own narratives and building their own play areas.

In fact, Robin Moore, a professor of landscape architecture and director of the Natural Learning Initiative at N.C. State, is a leader in helping to develop sites like these.

The initiative, along with the National Wildlife Federation and others, is working to develop national design and management guidelines for nature areas in children’s outdoor play and learning environments, according to its website. If you're interested or curious about these natural play areas, I recommend the website.

In Wake County, Blue Jay Point County Park is among the latest parks in our region to add a special "nature play area" to their offerings for families. It opened last year.

The small area, just up the paved walkway from the park's traditional playground, includes a stump jump, castle construction, sand area and blocks made from tree trunks for building. It's all set under a stand of tall trees, making it a cool and cozy place to play.

Watch the video for a closer look at the play area at Blue Jay Point, 3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd., north of Raleigh. Hopping across the stumps at Blue Jay Point County Park's nature play area Playground Review: Nature play area at Blue Jay Point County Park

You'll also find variations on the natural play theme at parks including White Deer Park in Garner, Prairie Ridge Ecostation in west Raleigh, the N.C. Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and Annie Louise Wilkerson MD Nature Preserve in north Raleigh.

In Cary, Kids Together Playground, which Moore was involved in, also involves natural elements including the tall grasses and plantings that have been placed there for sensory play. (If I'm missing some, please tell me in the comments).

My kids love these play areas. It's a different kind of experience than the running and climbing on the traditional metal and plastic play sets. But it's still active play as they jump across stumps or haul sticks and branches to build a fort. And I seem them using their imaginations so much more.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of these across the Triangle.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. Check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations for more ideas.

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