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Home > Bird Food Blog > Playgrounds and Nature – what’s the link?

Playgrounds and Nature – what’s the link?

Monday, 9th November 2020

We all know what pleasure we get from playgrounds. Children find them a wonderful place in which to relax and to enjoy themselves, especially when school has ended for the day.
Children of different ages enjoying a small playground
Children of different ages enjoy a small playground in the middle of town

But it is not only children and youngsters who benefit from using playgrounds. Parents, aunts and uncles, carers, child-minders, companions, and others who visit a playground usually find it a good place to talk and to exchange news. Grandparents in particular seem to enjoy the playground atmosphere!
 
This grandfather (John Cooper) is a great fan of playgrounds and other open spaces, with or without grandchildren!
This grandfather (John Cooper) is a great fan of playgrounds and other open spaces,
with or without grandchildren

 
Unfortunately, Covid-19 has affected playgrounds as well as everything else. Those using playgrounds and other public places have to be warned to follow hygiene precautions and to practise “social distancing” – which is not easy when children and other young people are enjoying themselves and are keen to mingle with friends.

Notice in a playground warning about the dangers of Covid-19
Notice in a playground warning about the dangers of Covid-19
 
A scene at a larger playground, on the edge of town. There is space and much more vegetation, including mature trees
A scene at a larger playground, on the edge of town. There is space
and much more vegetation, including mature trees

Despite Covid-19, playgrounds continue to give pleasure, especially to those people who live in towns or cities and do not have easy access to the countryside or other “natural” open spaces. However, playgrounds themselves can provide opportunities for visitors to see animals and plants. Birds in particular are often attracted to play areas because those using them either take food to feed sparrows and pigeons or, after a snack, leave crumbs under seats which some birds eat avidly, especially in the autumn and winter when food is becoming scarce unless, of course, local residents are putting out a suitable “wild bird diet” in their gardens.
 
Blackbird feeding

Plants often abound in playgrounds. In spring so-called “weeds” start to grow and if these are against walls or under railings they may escape cutting by the council and produce attractive flowers. As the autumn approaches and the weather becomes increasingly damp, mosses will become apparent between paving stones and algal growth (which looks like a green mould and is very granular (crumbly) when touched) flourishes and spreads in protected areas under swings, slides and roundabouts. Be wary; surfaces where algae grow can be very slippery!

Green algae under a slide in a playground
Green algae under a slide in a playground
 
If a playground is near trees, other animals and plants can be seen. In the autumn birds often assemble in small flocks. They can include sparrows, starlings, chaffinches (and other types of finch) and blue, great and long-tailed tits.
 
Sparrows

The damp, humid, conditions in autumn encourage the growth of mosses and green algae – mentioned above – together with fungi.

“Fungi” (singular “fungus”) are commonly known as ‘mushrooms’ or ‘toadstools’ but there are many types, including “moulds”, and we shall say more about them in a later blog. Those that grow on trees are called ‘bracket fungi’ and are frequently seen on branches in public places, even in towns.
 
Bracket fungi growing on an old dead tree stump in the middle of town
Bracket fungi growing on an old dead tree stump in the middle of town
 
You may see other animals also, not just birds. Squirrels are very active in autumn, searching for and storing food. So also, are many small creatures, especially those that like damp weather. These include spiders – look out for their beautiful webs, often clearly seen first thing in the morning when outlined with rain drops or frost. Slugs, snails and woodlice are particularly common in the autumn, especially if it rains. However, you may have to search carefully for “mini-beasts” because many of them hide away from the view of other animals, especially birds that may consider them a tasty meal.
 
Margaret-Cooper-investigates-a-hole-in-a-wall
Margaret Cooper investigates a hole in a wall, just round the corner from the
local playground. Note
the luxuriant growth of moss at her feet

 
Closer examination of the hole reveals a garden snail, hiding from predators and keeping itself moist.
Closer examination of the hole reveals a garden snail,
hiding from predators and keeping itself moist

What we have said above is a reminder that not only do playgrounds offer hours of pleasure to children and those who accompany them but can also themselves be a good place to observe the natural world.

In succeeding blogs in this series we shall explain how you can “make Nature your playground” and thereby enjoy to the full the wider world, especially its animals and plants. We shall describe the natural history that is all around us and which you can spot on a walk in the countryside, on your way to school or to the shops, or even when looking through your kitchen window. We shall also suggest projects that you might like to do – such as the leaf-painting already described on the Haith’s website.

We should like your feedback too. Please tell us what you like about Nature. It may be seeing a robin from the window of your home or flat, or just watching leaves of different colours, green, yellow, brown or golden, falling from trees.

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  • Comments

"Thank You" by
23 Nov 2020

Thank you for also sharing the post, very insightful. There is much to appreciate in the environment!
(From Kenya)

"Good" by
23 Nov 2020

Keep up the good work !

"Wonderful!" by
23 Nov 2020

Wonderful article and photos!

"Excellent Website" by
23 Nov 2020

Excellent web site, I’m trying to work out if the Blackbird is looking shocked at the prospect of having to eat all that food, or deciding to be territorial!

"Excellent Website" by
23 Nov 2020

Excellent web site, I’m trying to work out if the Blackbird is looking shocked at the prospect of having to eat all that food, or deciding to be territorial!

"Excellent Website" by
23 Nov 2020

Excellent web site, I’m trying to work out if the Blackbird is looking shocked at the prospect of having to eat all that food, or deciding to be territorial!

"Excellent Website" by
23 Nov 2020

Excellent web site, I’m trying to work out if the Blackbird is looking shocked at the prospect of having to eat all that food, or deciding to be territorial!

"Enjoyable Read" by
23 Nov 2020

Thank you for sending this to us, really enjoyed reading it.

"Thank You" by
23 Nov 2020

Thank you for sending the playground article, lovely that you could spend some time with your grandchildren earlier. The
playground in the walks has a very uplifting green setting. You're right, those areas are extremely valuable for fresh air,
exercise and hopefully some aspects of wildlife.

"Nice Article" by
23 Nov 2020

That was a nice article for the children, interesting and good pictures.

"Lovely" by
23 Nov 2020

That’s really lovely! I’m off to the local playground…
Hx

"Great" by
23 Nov 2020

It's great, and the photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

"Thank You" by
23 Nov 2020

Thank you very much for this – a very enjoyable read, and nice to be able to put faces to your voices!
My husband and I have spent a lot more time enjoying nature and the great outdoors with our children during the
pandemic – come rain or shine! I’m sure it is one of the silver linings of the pandemic – that when our many regular
activities are curtailed, we find solace and pleasure in nature.

"Brilliant" by
23 Nov 2020

That's brilliant, thank you very much for forwarding! It's really novel. Like you, I've read all sorts about nature
appreciation over the years, but never through the lens of children's playgrounds.
Lovely. Love the algae under the slide!

"A Very Important Message" by
23 Nov 2020

Good to hear from you! Your messages are very important - reaching children with good information (and arguably before
some parents impart negative messages about garden creatures) is I think key to gaining their appreciation of nature.
And incorporating such education in a play/fun environment probably doubles its value.

"Wonderful" by
23 Nov 2020

This is wonderful and the sentiment is one with which I agree wholeheartedly! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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