Natural playground stimulates children's imagination and creativity

At a time when our children’s lives are so structured with organized sports, camps and other activities, Oakland Family Services provides its preschoolers time every day to just be a kid and enjoy the outdoors.

Natural playgrounds at our Children’s Learning Centers provide needed unstructured play time that encourages kids to use their imagination and creativity while strengthening their growing muscles.

On any given day you will see children hopping across wooden stumps, rolling tires, digging in the dirt to find earthworms, or exploring the vegetable garden.

Research shows that children who have access to a natural playground ­- one without large, metal play structures - have high gross motor skills and engage in more pretend play.

Our playground includes different areas that assist in the children's growth and development:

  • Marimbas, a bamboo soundboard and parachute encourage cooperative play and improve gross motor skills while children dance to music.
  • The balance scale helps children use deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  • Water and sand tables encourage fine motor development, cooperative play, sensory exploration and pretend play.
  • Stepping stumps and tires encourage big muscle movement - particularly core strength, jumping and balancing skills as well as encouraging heavy lifting.
  • Art materials and magnifying glasses with natural items help develop fine motor skills and pretend play.

In 2015, the playground at the Walled Lake Children's Learning Center was dedicated in memory of Kirk V. Oehrlein, son of Walter and Francie Oehrlein. Francie is a former board member of Oakland Family Services. In addition to their ongoing support of the playground, the couple are longtime supporters of the agency. 

Last year, the playground and adjacent garden at the Children’s Learning Center in Pontiac was named in honor of Brigitte P. Harris, a former board member and cherished supporter of Oakland Family Services. Harris believed in building brighter futures for families through the sustainability of the agency.