Grant Recipient

Nature Playce – Connecting Kids and Nature

Photo By: Don Sweeney, Fairfax County Park Authority photographer
Children play in Nature Playce's new water feature. A community grant from Transurban-Fluor funded the new addition to the natural play area.

About Nature Playce

Squirmy worms, mud pies and tree forts – these are things children can experience at Nature Playce, a 1/3-acre open woodland space designed for safe nature play.

Located next to the Fairfax County Park Authority's Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, Nature Playce provides a natural area where children can interact directly with nature and participate in self-directed creative play. It has one simple rule: Enter with a sense of wonder and spirit of adventure.

"Children spend 50 percent less time outdoors than their parents did," said Suzanne Holland, assistant manager of the Hidden Oaks Nature Center. "This is much more of a plugged-in generation. Children are not able to understand what nature is all about or appreciate what is around them."

The only facility of its kind in the area, Nature Playce provides a safe outdoor environment that puts parents at ease while connecting children with nature and encouraging free play. On any given day children can play with worms and bugs, find birds perched in the trees, watch a squirrel nibble on an acorn or even catch a glimpse of a few deer grazing in the woods.

Most importantly, Nature Playce creates a bond between children and nature – building a generation dedicated to protecting our environment.

"We are building future stewards," Holland said. "They are going to develop a positive relationship with nature and in the future be more actively engaged in protecting it."

495 Express Lanes Community Grant Support

Nature Playce recently added a water feature using grant money provided by Transurban-Fluor. The water feature, which includes rocks to climb on and puddles to splash in, provides children with a connection to water. In addition to the water feature, Nature Playce provides digging areas, a sandbox and fallen trees for climbing.

"We've seen amazing creative play around the water feature," Holland said. "It gives the children the ability to touch and play in a safe water environment. They make mud soup, pies and sand castles and do it all on their own."

Transurban-Fluor selected Nature Playce for a community grant because if its commitment to the environment.

"As a long-term partner in the Northern Virginia area, we are committed to the local community and its environment," said Tim Steinhilber, general manager of the 495 Express Lanes Project. "Nature Playce provides the hands-on experience with nature that undoubtedly creates environmentally conscious citizens in the future. We are pleased to have had an opportunity to assist such a unique organization."

The development of Nature Playce has been a community effort with assistance from an Eagle Scout, Kiwanis Club of Annandale, Transurban-Fluor and the Friends of Hidden Oaks Nature Center.

More Information

For more information or to volunteer at Nature Playce, please visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/hiddenoaks/.