The playground, which is located within the Zoo’s Delta Sonic Heritage Farm exhibit, is intended to encourage “nature play” among child visitors. Nature play is unstructured childhood play in wild areas. Studies show that there are many positive impacts of such play time on a child's social, emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being.
“It is meant as a space for kids to figure out how they want to use the natural elements for unstructured play time,” said the Zoo’s Education Curator, Tiffany Vanderwerf. “As a conservation organization, the Buffalo Zoo wants to encourage nature play because studies also indicate that play in nature is the most common influence on the development of conservation values and behaviors. We LOVE that! It is right in line with our mission. We're sure it will be super popular. Kids and parents asked us about the area every day while it was being built and couldn't wait to come back to try it out.”
The new nature playground features a hollow log for crawling, a sand dig pit, log balance beams, a log stepping garden, and log tables and chairs for resting and quiet play. Most of the materials were sourced locally from fallen trees at the Zoo, or locations nearby. The giant hollow log was donated by Tree Care of New York.
The play space was made possible through a grant from Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo & Aquarium, a collaboration between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and The Walt Disney Company to provide financial, logistical, and creative support to zoos and aquariums seeking to increase or enhance family-centered nature experiences in their communities.
The nature playground is free with regular Zoo admission.