How cities can create “Naturalised Parks” – a guide from Brazil

Published June 24, 2022

Creating more green play spaces is a win-win for cities, benefiting both children’s development and cities’ adaptation to climate change. The Alana Institute, in partnership with Urban95 Brazil, has produced a new book – Parques Naturalizados (in Portuguese only) – to guide cities in creating naturalised parks, based on their experiences of working with Brazilian cities.

Photo: Courtesy of Escola de Notícias

The Alana Institute is training and supporting municipalities across the country to construct and manage naturalised parks, as well as supporting schools to have more classes outside. Parks are already operational in the cities of Jundiaí, Caruaru, Niterói and Fortaleza, and in the process of being made in other cities including Teresina, Sobral and Mogi das Cruzes.

This video showcases the parks in Fortaleza:

Naturalised parks work with the existing characteristics of a piece of land. They typically involve paths made from pebbles, wood chips or earth; native plant species, and trees for children to climb; opportunities to improvise toys from nature, such as “forest kitchens” where children can play-cook with mud and leaves; and elements of running water for splashing and having fun.

Photo: Courtesy of Escola de Notícias

These parks offer children a greater range of possibilities for imaginative and autonomous play, exploring and creating – as well as spending time in nature, which evidence increasingly shows is critical for mental health and wellbeing. The parks also provide caregivers with shaded areas to rest and interact with others, and help the city as a whole to feel more safe and vibrant. As José Élcio Batista, Vice Mayor of Fortaleza, says, “When you recover degraded areas and citizens start to occupy them, the feeling of public security tends to increase”.

“Contact with nature brings benefits for a child’s entire life,” says Bebel Barros, author of the publication. “We are increasingly sure that stepping on grass and playing in wet soil are unique assets for full development in early childhood.”