YMCA inspires children to connect with their environment by introducing natural playgrounds

    TORONTO, May 12 /CNW/ - Children at the YMCA High Park Child Care Centre
will be introduced to their new natural playground today, inspiring them to
explore their world in a different way. The playground lets kids connect with
their environment by providing a safe play space that uses natural elements
such as mature trees, fallen logs, flowers, hills, valleys and boulders.
    The YMCA has opened seven natural playgrounds across the GTA in the past
year and plans to open more in 2009. Unlike traditional play structures,
natural playgrounds encourage children to explore nature and use their
imagination, whether it is by watching insects build homes or planting and
nurturing a living creature.
    "Natural playgrounds fit perfectly with the YMCA's Playing to Learn
curriculum because they allow us to give children the opportunity to learn
through creative, interactive, sensory play," said Jillian Sewell, YMCA Child
Care Development Manager. "As a charity there is also a financial benefit
since these play spaces are cost-effective and have long-term sustainability."
    The cost of building a natural playground is comparable to that of a
traditional play structure; however the maintenance fees are significantly
lower. A natural playground's lifespan can last up to 30 years while
traditional equipment must be replaced approximately every five years.
    "My child is fascinated by the natural playground at the YMCA because
it's always changing and evolving," said parent Elaine Belore. "Gabriel comes
home and tells me all about what new bugs he discovered that day."
    Since not everyone has easy access to fields and forests, particularly in
the city, natural playgrounds use elements such as tree stumps for seating,
vertical logs for forts, and slides embedded in hills which lowers the rate of
playground injuries. The use of indigenous plants and local materials in the
creation of the play space also lowers its carbon footprint.
    Natural playgrounds promote social inclusivity by offering accessibility
to people of all abilities, fitness levels, intelligence, creativity,
cultures, and genders.
    "Traditional playgrounds have one focus while natural playgrounds promote
open-ended play and support the full development of the child," said Adam
Bienenstock, Founder and Principal Designer, Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds -
the organization that created the playground. "Not only is nature a fun place
to play, it is proven time and time again that children who interact with
nature have enhanced mental capacities, better motor control, larger
imaginations and greater creativity."

    About the YMCA of Greater Toronto

    The YMCA of Greater Toronto is a dynamic charity connecting with more
than 400,000 people at 235 locations across the GTA to build strong kids,
strong families and strong communities. For 155 years, the YMCA has been
promoting positive values that build spirit, mind and body. Mirroring the
regions diversity, the YMCA welcomes everyone regardless of their background,
experiences, or circumstances. Through the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, we
strive to ensure no one is turned away because of an inability to pay. The
YMCA, in partnership with more than 250 organizations and over 3,500
volunteers, offers a variety of programs responding to the needs of the
community, including employment, education and newcomer programs, youth
outreach, health, fitness and recreation, youth in need of housing,
international programs, child care, and camps. www.ymcagta.org

    About Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds

    Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds are built by Gardens for Living Inc., a
full service design and build playground company. The playgrounds create
opportunities for all our children to play and learn. They engage the child in
full by using natural features and elements such as rolling green landscapes,
mature trees, slides embedded in hills, amphitheatres, garden beds, fallen
logs, tree stumps for seating and tables, vertical logs for forts, musical
instruments, art walls and other components for a wide range of open-ended
play options for children. Current clients include the YMCA, Jasper National
Park, Toronto Community Housing Corporation with upcoming projects in Canada,
USA and the UK. www.naturalplaygrounds.ca

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Stephanie Hurley/Celecia Partap, YMCA of
Greater Toronto, (416) 413-1020 ext. 2339/(647) 588-6800,
Stephanie.hurley@ymcagta.org/Celecia.partap@ymcagta.org; Bruce Sudds,
Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, (416) 931-3643, bruce@naturalplaygrounds.ca

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