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Create Your Own Play

This ‘play space’ at Enniskillen Conservation Area provides children with the opportunity to create their own play in a forest area equipped with natural play materials (loose parts, e.g., rails, sticks, stones, logs, tree cookies).

The play space is contained within cedar rail fencing and in a forested area with little vegetation on the ground, to minimize off-trail impacts. The Nature Nook was created with the knowledge that child-directed play helps with the development of the whole child — cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills.

Research has also shown that this type of play contributes to school success and is both a necessary and important part of a child’s life. Children who play in natural landscapes appear to be healthier, have improved motor skills, balance and coordination, and demonstrate more creativity in their play. When playing outside, children also benefit from being exposed to sunlight, natural elements, and open air, which contribute to stronger immune systems.

The intentionally irregular boundaries formed by the snaking cedar rail fence and internal fenced islands were designed to give students a sense of freedom and a desire to explore while containing them within a safe space with defined limits.

Use of the space at lunch time during a full-day booking is free of charge.A $25 fee applies
for the use of the space for a half-day booking. 

Nature artwork at CLOCA Conservation Area

Developmental Benefits of Adventure Play: 

The Risks are a concern for adults when children engage in nature-based, outdoor free play. Risks are commonly viewed as something to

be avoided, especially for children, yet researchers are learning that exposure to risk is an important part of child development.  Advocates for “risky play” are encouraging child care providers to offer opportunities that are “as safe as necessary” rather than “as safe as possible”.


The 2008 Play Safety Forum Managing Risk in Play Provision: A Position Statement, defines a Hazard as a danger in the environment that could seriously injure or endanger a child and is beyond the child’s capacity to recognize and a Risk is defined as “the challenges and uncertainties within the environment that a child can recognize and learn to manage by choosing to encounter them while determining their own limits.

Risks not Hazards

Risk is present in virtually every situation both in nature and in life, and part of growing up is learning how to identify and manage risk. A setting without some risk is not engaging and, from a developmental perspective, lacks opportunity to develop skills and judgment.  Allowing children to experience uncertainty improves their physicality, coping skills, and ability to problem solve.  During outdoor risky play, children have the opportunity to experience failure and success, learning by trial and error.  Children who are exposed to risky play are less dependent on adults to manage risks, which gives them the confidence they need to navigate the challenges in the unpredictable environments around them.

Image by MI PHAM

In our proposed free play forest space, “The Nature Nook”; children could be exposed to risks such as slippery ground in winter, mud in wet weather, dirt, dust, insect bites, potential litter from users, and misuse of loose parts.  Users of the Nature Nook will be allowed and encouraged to engage in adventurous play within the forest including the use of loose parts.  Children may experience minor injuries such as scrapes, bumps, bruises, falls, and slips as they learn their limits through navigating, building, and playing within the space.  This is no different than experiences they may have when participating in regular play activities in their school yard.   ​ 

Kids Running

School groups booked to use the Nature Nook will be sent an Informed Risk Sheet that will identify the risks. This sheet can be given to administration and parents prior to booking. Participants will receive an orientation session at the Learning Circle with CLOCA staff.  This will include rules and guidelines for play (e.g. Materials are not to be lifted
over students’ heads; large pieces of wood must be moved by
dragging one end, etc.) 

Cathy Grant Teaching at CLOCA Conservation Area


Cathy Grant

Education Instructor

905 579-0411 ext. 108


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