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Wed, Jul 23, 2014

Stonebrook Day School puts nature back into outdoor play

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Children playing comes naturally; Stonebrook Day School put natural back into child’s play.

At Stonebrook, children don’t just talk or study about nature; they explore it directly on a cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind natural playground – the first of its kind in Rutherford County.

Stonebrook owners Rick and Donna Smith didn’t turn to technology for a gentler, kinder playground. They turned to nature.

Stonebrook’s playscape includes a garden, tricycle path and garage, stage, tree-stump benches, foot bridge, music and art space, sand bunker, labyrinth, wood playhouse and store, slides and a tunnel, and a picnic area, plus lots of grass, plants and trees. The trees offer year-round color and texture interest, and all plants are completely non-toxic – even edible.

Donna Smith notes that the children especially love the garden and the fact that they get to eat and share what they grow. The school has made salsa, soup, and fried squash from the garden offerings.

Smith has shown the children how to collect seeds from sunflower blossoms, which they have packaged for next year.

Research has shown that regular access to the natural world lowers children’s stress levels, improves their quality of life and can lower the rate of behavioral issues. A natural playscape offers this access, while providing all the benefits of a typical playground: gross motor activity, risk taking, problem solving, and social interaction.

 A stimulating and environmentally friendly alternative to the steel-and-plastic, manufactured structures found at most childcare centers, Stonebrook’s playscape brings new, healthier dimensions to children’s play and discovery.

At a time when lifestyle diseases such as childhood obesity and diabetes are epidemic, research points to the critical role outdoor exercise plays in starting kids on a healthy path. Studies have shown that children who play in nature are less stressed and have fewer behavioral issues.

One 2004 study found that exposure to nature can significantly reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder in children, and a 2003 study found that bullying is curbed or even eliminated when kids play in diverse natural environments.

Nevertheless, a 2004 study from the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State University found that, even in states where childcare standards are highest, most centers offer only three natural elements in their play areas: grass, mulch, and a few trees.

Stonebrook’s playscape goes well beyond that with its a vegetable and herb garden, tricycle path, bridge, playhouse, slides, tunnel and more all from natural products in a natural setting.

Opened in September 2011, the Stonebrook playscape has attracted interest from other childcare providers in Tennessee and other states, and Stonebrook parents are thrilled.

 Founded on the philosophy that children's innate curiosity is the natural doorway to their intellectual development, Stonebrook Day School is a locally owned and operated child development center for ages 6 weeks to 5 years, offering inspirational and educational experiences designed to encourage children’s social and creative growth in an inspiring, nurturing environment.
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