To design an intriguing, fun and appealing play space with a strong woodland theme which promotes the natural aspect of the setting reflecting the ethos of the nursery and welcoming the Nursery’s visitors. Planting to enhance the atmosphere and allow for growing and digging space for the children.
The outdoor ethos of the nursery became the heart of the design and the surrounding, mature trees lent us a great backdrop for our new woodland garden. I knew that I wanted to improve the flow round the garden and it was important to staff that they be able to see all the children, all the time. So I set about designing a layout that would prioritise visibility whilst still giving the children a sense of adventure, independence and destinations. We all know how children inevitably play intensively in the corners of playgrounds or behind the sofa, not on it. I wanted to harness this need for being inside, behind and under things that is so much a part of any 3 year old’s life. Through lengthy collaboration with the staff and trustees we struck a good balance between practicality and aesthetics. Transparent willow domes now take the place of wooden wendy houses, the old metal climbing frame has become a rocky mound (affectionately known as Scotland by the staff) which offers better climbing challenges for small children, natural light floods into the covered area, an underused corner is now the handmade Mud Pie Kitchen and the bomb shelter that dominated the rear is now an intricate set of walkways and viewing platforms that take the children up high into the trees. I’m delighted with the result.
When I finally saw the children playing in the garden, using it just as I had hoped they would, my heart sang! Some were digging in the sandpit, others chasing each other round the mound and up and down to the LookOut, others diligently collecting grass for their mud pies in the Mud Pie Kitchen and two little boys peddling logs round the track in their trucks chatting all the while about how important their loads were to ‘the man’ whoever he is. The teachers are able to supervise widely whilst involved in concentrated play with children closer to them. They have seats where they need them, outdoor story telling spaces and plants that will look after themselves whilst providing an array of different textures, leaf shapes and seed heads for projects.
From the moment a child walks up the leafy lane to the nursery, they move into a woodland world that is celebrated. The children genuinely have access to nature in all it’s muddy glory, in a setting that makes outdoor play easy for the teachers.
Millington Road Nursery
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