In this guest post, contributor Wes Fleming discusses the benefits of natural outdoor play environments and the effect on children’s health and wellbeing.

Something truly exciting is happening at the moment – we’re going backwards, and it’s happening all around us.

From health professionals and nutritionists espousing the benefits of a caveman diet, to scientists starting to really explore the links between plants and our wellbeing, we’re all going back to basics – well, more like back to nature, actually.

Take kindergartens for example. During the 80’s and 90’s natural elements started to be removed from playgrounds, elements seen to be hazardous for kids were stripped away and plastic fantastic reigned supreme – all in the name of health and safety.

We padded our children with cotton wool and whisked them inside, away from the dirt, mud and insects.

Fast forward two decades and our children are spending a great deal of their time indoors, and when they are allowed to play outside they are faced with uninspired, unimaginative play spaces complete with rubber soft-fall and hard, plastic objects.

But what if a more natural environment was just the right medicine? Fleming’s, the City of Ballarat and Deakin University have recently collaborated on a study to explore the benefits of a more natural environment and the effect on children’s behaviour, and the initial results have been resounding.

Researchers have found that, when faced with playscapes that are more natural and tactile (think stepping stones, tee-pee trees, rolling mounds and tree forests), children display a greater range of movement, they engage more with their surroundings, challenge themselves, and interact better with others.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what this field of research could mean for the future of education, health and wellbeing? It’s a fascinating concept with so much more discovery to come.

This also presents an exciting opportunity for businesses and commercial entities to explore new technologies, practices and products that use more natural materials and philosophies which are backed by solid research.

As we start to come full circle and refocus our attention back to nature, it seems the old saying of ‘one step forwards, two step backwards’ may not be so bad after all.

For more information on the KinderGarden study or Fleming’s Nurseries please visit:





About Wes Fleming
A third generation nurseryman and nine-time Chelsea Flower Show veteran, Wes Fleming was ‘born and bred’ growing trees. In 2013 Wes achieved a lifelong dream when he led his Australian team to win a coveted ‘Best in Show’ award at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show – the first time this honour had ever been presented to an Australian garden in the show’s 100 year history. Now that Wes has hung up his Chelsea boots, he is actively involved in lobbying Government across all three levels to not only improve access to parks and gardens but also to raise the bar for amenity and functionality, so that Australians can reap the health and social benefits for years to come. Wes is also an ambassador for Planet Ark’s National Tree Day initiative. View all posts by this author »