International expert exchange between Prague and Dresden on nature-oriented design of kindergartens and play areas

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On March 22, 2024, a group of educators and experts from the kindergarten and nature education sector from Prague visited nature-oriented kindergartens and playgrounds in Dresden under the guidance of landscape architects Matthias Mohring and Sigrid Böttcher-Steeb from bdla Saxony

© Jan Hromadko

© Jan Hromadko

The cross-border expert exchange was initiated and financed by the non-profit Czech foundation "Nadace Karel Komárek Family Foundation", which has been promoting the natural transformation and child-friendly design of kindergartens and school grounds throughout the Czech Republic since 2011.

On a bus tour with around 20 guests from Prague, we visited the small nature area of the Himmelsschlüssel daycare center in Weixdorf, the completely renovated forest-like nature play area at the Kinderreich daycare center in Dresden Rochwitz and the new forest playground at Südpark. Matthias Mohring and Sigrid Böttcher-Steeb explained the history and special features of the respective facilities, while the daycare center directors provided insights into their everyday pedagogical work with the outdoor area.
During the lunch break at the Dresden Environmental Center, we discussed the importance of natural play areas for children and pedagogical and planning approaches in the Czech Republic and Germany in greater depth.

The miniature nature play area at the Himmelsschlüssel Protestant daycare center in Dresden-Weixdorf was created step by step with a great deal of personal effort

A versatile play landscape was created in a very small space at the small daycare facility, with a climbing mountain, nature construction sites and water play in particular, creating new and sensory-stimulating play situations time and again. The central element of the kindergarten grounds is the climbing hill with numerous climbs and a stainless steel ramp. Despite the lack of space, the fill against concrete retaining walls allows for exciting heights and a variety of motor skills, to which a former stainless steel rescue slide reused as a tunnel also contributes.

The nature play area at the Himmelsschlüssel daycare center was built with a great deal of personal effort and work by the educational team and parents under the expert guidance of landscape architect Matthias Mohring. The play area has been well maintained over the last 10 years and has been continuously developed. A small ball game corner and an additional green garden area, especially for little ones and swing enthusiasts, have been added in recent years.

The garden area of the Kinderreich daycare center in Wägnerstraße Dresden-Rochwitz is characterized by many climbing opportunities, niches and play areas under large trees

The redesign and renovation of the small-scale nature play area at the municipal facility at the top of the Elbe slope was only just completed at the beginning of the year on behalf of the Eigenbetrieb Kindertageseinrichtungen - the hilly landscape still looks correspondingly barren at the moment.
The landscape architect responsible, Sigrid Böttcher-Steeb, and the manager, Ms Richter, talked about the overused, erosion-threatened area, which is now waiting for the freshly sown wild shrub mixtures and bushes to develop magnificently. Small fences have been erected to protect the plants so that they have a chance against the intensive play. But in between there is enough space for the 85 children aged 1-6 to romp around and "crumble" in the numerous paths and niches, swings, balancing and climbing facilities. The crèche children enter their miniature landscape with platforms, paths, sloping levels and swings through a gate, while the older children test their motor skills on the high mountain and meet up for role play.

Climb, slide and swing high above the city: The children's wishes and ideas have been realized in the new forest playground

The last stop on the bus tour was the forest playground built high above the city in the Südpark in 2023. The Czech guests were impressed by the natural setting and the variety of balancing and climbing options for many children, including older ones. Matthias Mohring explained how he had realized the children's wishes with a separate cave entrance, an 8 m high giant slide tower, a 4 m high sky swing and a climbing and balancing course on which you can cross the entire playground without touching the ground.

The participants and employees of the Czech foundation expressed their thanks for the very inspiring tour and the stimulating examples and discussions. A continuation of the cross-border exchange - perhaps with a return visit to Prague - and further encounters between nature education, childhood education and landscape architecture are expressly desired.

Sigrid Böttcher-Steeb, landscape architect bdla, contact person for the educational spaces working group

Czech Nadace Karel Komárek Family Foundation Contact: Adéla Tichá


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