PlayCore, a playground designer and manufacturer, and the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), a design and assistance program of the College of Design of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, joined together to create the program NatureGrounds: Putting Nature Into Play. Their mission is to “create a dramatic shift in the standard playground development process by deliberately designing nature back into children's lives.”1

Responding to the grassroots movement started by Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods, and led by the research of Robin Moore and Nilda Cosco of Natural Learning Initiative, NatureGrounds seeks to inspire recreation professionals and play space designers to create integrated play environments that include nature, open play spaces, and commercial play equipment.2

Their purpose for adding nature back into school and community playgrounds is for children's health and social development, their expanded learning opportunities, their greater environmental awareness, and their increased physical activity.3 They also seek to involve the local community in creating these integrated outdoor play experiences.

The NatureGrounds program includes an online database of NLI research case studies, a searchable plant selection database for incorporating plants into playgrounds, and the guidebook, Creating & Retrofitting Play Environments: Best Practice Guidelines, which discusses natural playground sites, users, and components. They also offer trainings; links to supporting organizations, books and publications; and a gallery of demonstration sites.4

Through their PlayCore affiliation, NatureGrounds receives computer-aided design services and field support, while Natural Learning Initiative contributes research, experience, and technical expertise concerning the naturalization of playgrounds.5

  • 1. “Press Release: Unique Playground Initiative 'Puts Nature Into Play'.” NatureGrounds. < > 22 June 2011.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. “NatureGrounds.” Play and Park Structures. < > 3 July 2011.
  • 4. “Overview.” NatureGrounds. < > 22 June 2011.
  • 5. Op.cit., “Press Release.”