Playgrounds with the Most Natural Habitats Around NYC

Image © milicanistoran/ DPC

Image © milicanistoran/ DPC

My article about the soon-to-open Elements Preschool touches upon the benefits of natural habitats for reducing stress, improving relationships, and reducing inattention among children.  An interesting three year study at the University of Colorado confirmed what we all know inherently to be true: being in nature feels good and helps us all cope with stress.  I’ve rounded up a list of playgrounds in NYC that have nice natural features, so that you and your kids can take a break from the hustle and bustle, or at least take a break from the asphalt.

Manhattan
Heckscher Playground
7th Ave & Central Park S
from 61st to 63rd Streets, Manhattan
Reconstructed in 2005, Heckscher playground is nestled among Central Park’s rolling meadows. This shaded area contains swings, slides, and rocks to climb. The playground also has a water feature with tunnels, ramps, and slides so kids can cool off in the warmer months.

heckscher

Photo courtesy of Time Out New York

Brooklyn
Donald & Barbara Zucker Natural Exploration Area
East Drive Near Grand Army Plaza
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
This playground doesn’t have any traditional structures – instead it is made from recycled trees found in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Kids are encouraged to follow paths through wooded areas and count the rings to determine how old the fallen trees are. Woodpeckers, squirrels, and rabbits have been seen nearby, so set aside some time for nature spotting.

Photo courtesy of redtri.com

Photo courtesy of redtri.com

Pier 6 Playground
Atlantic Ave and Furman St
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn
Pier 6 has everything you’d expect from a park: a sandbox, slides, jungle gyms, swings, and ropes. What sets this waterfront playground apart is the Marsh Garden, which is full of lush greenery for your child to explore.

Image ©Julienne Schaer via brooklynbridgepark.org

Image ©Julienne Schaer via brooklynbridgepark.org

Queens
Alley Pond Park Playground
Springfield Boulevard and 76th Avenue
Oakland Garden, Queens
This is one of three playgrounds in Alley Pond Park, and it’s certainly worth the trek out to Queens. The main playground features a treehouse that kids will love as well as proximity to nature trails, a high-ropes course, a zip line, and a nature conservation center.

Photo courtesy of mommypoppins.com

Photo courtesy of mommypoppins.com

Playground for All Children
Corona Ave at 111th Street
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
This playground was designed for kids with and without disabilities – wheelchair-accessible ramps connect jungle gyms, and signs are also written in braille. A mini river surrounds the water feature, and there’s a nature trail for kids who want to explore.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Photo courtesy of Yelp

The Bronx
Classic Playground
Van Cortlandt Park S and Gouverneur Avenue
Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx
Styled after Moses-era playgrounds during its recent renovation, Classic Playground in Van Cortlandt Park has plenty of slides, swings, benches, and a water feature. Afterwards, you can go fishing in the nearby Van Cortlandt Lake.

Photo courtesy of Foursquare

Photo courtesy of Foursquare

Barretto Point Park
Viele Avenue b/t Tiffany and Barretto St
Hunts Point in the Bronx
Hidden away in Hunts Point, this waterfront park often has live music and other family-friendly programming in the warmer months. The playground is shaded by plenty of trees, and nearby there is a pier for fishing and kayaking.

Photo courtest of mommypoppins.com

Photo courtesy of mommypoppins.com

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