Annette Pust knows you can’t replicate the freedom of the outdoors inside.
That’s why the Gerringong-based designer has crafted a natural outdoor play space, which is soon to be built at the Berry Sport and Recreation Centre (BSRC).
The play space is the first of its kind at such a facility in NSW and will allow children to explore an area sans traditional equipment or “soft fall” surfacing underfoot.
Gone are your typical slippery slides and monkey bars, they’ve been replaced by ponds, wetlands, rocks, boulders and tree trunks.
A 20,000 square-metre site, currently a grass paddock, will be landscaped to provide varied experiences and challenges for children while at the same time creating a habitat for the area’s flora and fauna.
The nature playground is the brainchild of BSRC’s project manager, Art Lidbetter, and has been brought to life by Ms Pust via a master plan.
Giving children the opportunity to take risks and get dirty is beneficial for their developmentAnnette Pust
Ms Pust spent most of her life in Germany and grew up around playgrounds that were “much more adventurous and risky”.
“The freedom associated with outdoor space can not be replicated inside,” she said.
“Giving children the opportunity to take risks and get dirty is beneficial for their development.
“Current studies prove that unstructured outside play has positive effects on children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.”
Ms Pust said Australian playgrounds were “very artificial” compared to those in Germany.
Artist Penny Sadubin, who also lives in Gerringong, worked as a landscaping consultant on the project.
“We can’t take it for granted that, because we have a great climate and an outdoor culture, our children are able to connect meaningfully with the natural world and have access to those kind of open-ended play experiences that most adults are nostalgic about today,” Ms Sadubin said.
The pair said even the “big kids” would probably want to use the nature playground.
Stage one of the nature play space master plan, which will see an existing creek enhanced with boulders and bridges, is expected to be built this year.
The remainder of the work is due for completion in coming years. Money for the project was included in this year’s NSW budget.