Wilding nature play

(From left) Dr Brenda Dobia, Ms Julie Regalado and Dr Son Truong from Western Sydney University’s School of Education are conducting a research evaluation at the the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden.

Western Sydney University researchers are calling on parents, carers and children who have visited Centennial Parklands’ award-winning Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden to participate in vital research that aims to evaluate its benefits for children’s development.

The research project centres on the ways the Garden can help to improve wellbeing and develop skills by connecting children with nature and encouraging them to have fun while exploring it. Children and carers can be part of the research by filling out the online survey and providing feedback on what they think of the Garden and what things they most like to do while there.

According to lead researcher, Dr Brenda Dobia, from the School of Education at Western Sydney University, the positive health and wellbeing effects of nature, green spaces and outdoor activities for children and adolescents are well established, but increasing urbanisation has reduced access to nature experiences.

“These days children spend so much time on their devices. This limits physical activity and reduces opportunities for children to learn from the world around them. It can also result in fearfulness about being outdoors. There is abundant evidence from various studies that outdoor activities in nature lead to improvements in children’s physical development, social interactions, and feelings of confidence and calmness,” said Dr Dobia.

“The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden aims to encourage nature-smart kids and that’s why children’s voices and feedback on their experience are so important for our research.”

Created in Sydney’s Centennial Park, the Garden was designed to break down barriers to nature play and provide an inclusive outdoor learning environment for all children, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with special needs, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It aims to contribute to health, wellbeing and skills development, helping to overcome ‘nature deprivation’ through play-based experiences that build environmental awareness, empathy and action.

“We are looking for children aged from 5-12 who have visited the site and are keen to share their feedback. All too often, playgrounds are designed by adults with their priorities and agendas,” said Dr Dobia. “The most important experts who can really tell us how the space works are the children themselves.”

“The research findings will identify the benefits of the Garden for children’s development as well as ways it might be improved further. It will thus provide timely evidence and insights for those seeking to develop similar sites for nature play in NSW and elsewhere.”

The Garden was developed with funding from The Ian Potter Foundation, other philanthropic foundations and more than 700 individual donors with the support of Centennial Parklands Foundation, and is managed by Centennial Parklands. The Garden opened to the public in October 2017 and has since attracted more than 264,000 visitors.

How to participate in the study

Western Sydney University invites children to share their feedback on their experiences of nature play at The Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden. A few questions ask children about fears they may have about nature. Any publication, presentation, and/or information will be provided in such a way that the participant cannot be identified. Visit the website.

About the research

Western Sydney University’s Wilding Nature Play research project is investigating the impacts of the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden for children, families, and the broader community. Researchers are Dr Brenda Dobia, Dr Kumara Ward, Dr Son Truong and Ms Julie Regalado from the School of Education.


5 February 2019

Isabel Wagner, Senior Media Officer