Nature Play

Step into Nature Play filled with wonder, exploration, learning, discovery and fun!

Click a picture below to see our exhibit sketches!


Nature Play Lower SmallNature Play Upper SmallNature Play Layout SmallNature Play Patio Small


Why Nature Play?

Playing in nature does a body good! And the environment benefits too! Outdoor play is critical for everyone and develops:

  • Creativity, problem-solving, focus, and self-discipline
  • Cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness
  • Coordination, agility, and physical awareness
  • Stress reduction, reduced aggression, and increased happiness
  • Respect for nature – children who play in nature become adults who want to protect it


About Nature Play

Nature Play invites children and their families to play and connect to the natural world and provides environments that stimulate curiosity and creativity. There are 7 areas within Nature Play:

  1. The Sound Garden features a musical fence, tongue drums, and listening tubes.
  2. The Play Garden includes natural fitness elements that provide opportunities for fun activities that include exercise, play and learning. Elements include a climbing wall & embankment slide, leap frog posts, stepping stumps, balance logs, and tree cookies.
  3. Water Table
  4. Sand Table
  5. Butterfly Garden
  6. Human Sundial
  7. The Discovery Gardens is a series of raised bed gardens featuring different themes. We currently have a Pizza Garden, Vegetable Gardens, Herb Garden, Animal Garden and Rainbow Garden. Produce grown in the Discovery Gardens will be incorporated into our weekly Snack Attack program as well as cooking classes and cooking camps. This allows learning to come full circle as children learn about growing organic food, then harvesting and preparing the food right in Discovery Center’s kitchen.

Nature Play is also designed to incorporate 5 activities from the Tennessee Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights:

  1. Play outside
  2. Explore nature
  3. Watch wildlife
  4. Grow a garden
  5. Splash in the water


Why is outdoor play so important?

  • Play in outdoor environments stimulates all aspects of children development more readily than indoor environments.
  • Exposure to natural environments improves children’s cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills.
  • Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often.
  • When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills.
  • Play in diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying.
  • Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world.
  • Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.
  • Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder. Wonder is an important motivator for life-long learning.
  • Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children.
  • Outdoor environments are important to children’s development of independence and autonomy.
  • Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after contact with nature.


Did you know?

A recent study by the University of Tennessee also found that children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds.