The Community Design Collaborative and Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) hosted a design charrette to engage designers, family child care providers, families, and educators in the design of nature-based play spaces for family child care settings.
A design charrette is an intensive period of collaboration that brings designers and community stakeholders together to talk, brainstorm, and sketch. Charrettes result in innovative, doable design approaches that address community needs. Participants explored how nature-based play can enhance the quality of family child care and how nature-based play can be introduced into even small yards in the city.
The need to enhance family child care outdoor spaces was identified by DVAEYC. While funding is available for child care providers to improve their outdoor spaces, most are unsure about how to use these funds most effectively.
The ideas generated through the charrette have been gathered into a special report offering model site plans for eight typical Philadelphia yards and a kit of parts with pricing. These tools will help family child care providers apply for improvement grants through A Running Start Philadelphia: Facility Fund and Rain Check.
The Play Space design charrette married two innovative approaches in early childhood education - family child care and nature-based play.
Family child care offers an alternative to the traditional child care center. They are based in the home of the caregiver and serve mixed age groups of children. Family child care can feel more like a family than a classroom, with an intimate scale and diversity that provides a welcoming learning environment for kids of all ages. Family child care providers depend heavily on their yards as outdoor play space for the children in their care.
Nature-based play is hands-on, spontaneous, and gives children access to everyday tools and natural materials. Nature-based play is defined by Nature Play and Learning Spaces as "a learning process, engaging children in working together to develop physical skills, to exercise their imaginations, to stimulate poetic expression, to begin to understand the workings of the world around them”. One of the hallmarks of nature-based play is "loose parts" like tree stumps, sticks, nuts, and pine cones that let kids build and improvise.