Outdoor Afro Goes to the ‘Wild Zone’

A New Form of Social Space

Last weekend my family joined dozens of others for some fun in a Wild Zone, a place where adults, children and adolescents can co-create a new form of public space that is dedicated to creativity and play in nature. Wild Zones differ from parks and play areas because they offer opportunities to interact with the environment rather than leaving it untouched.

Here is what we walked into:

David Hawkins and Karen Payne, are the co-founders of this roving system of play, and are passionate advocates of many years for children to get outdoors and engage with the tools and toys nature provides. The two have taken this innovative model for play from urban centers in the United States to Kosovo to demonstrate how, if given the opportunity, children choose to play. This is a refreshing perspective that can free parents from a sense of obligation to provide constant entertainment for kids. Fears about safety are not an issue as caregivers can interact or keep a watchful distance. Importantly, Wild Zones provide the space for youth to practice critical development and social negotiation skills in the context of unstructured play.

Here is what one parent had to say:

While my own three children get to play outdoors a lot where we live, I was not so sure how my oldest and now very cool teen son Seth (14) would take to the experience of playing with much younger kids. At first he refused to go! But after just a few minutes in the Wild Zone, my teen had a change of heart – watch:

What is also neat are the Play Rangers who roam the area to help kids engage in play, like Gavin:

Lastly, here is a wonderful video shot by my youngest child, Billy (7) as I humorously attempted to interview some of the kids at play:

Learn more about Wild Zones and the wonderful work of Karen and David and their philosophy to “create with nature” by visiting their website.

Also check out the Children and Nature Network to discover play opportunities where you live!

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