Lukas Ritson on Play Spaces, Wonderment and Sustainability

In this interview, Lukas Ritson shares how to design nature play spaces that build empathy & sustainability. Understand child experiences in each community first. Use local native plants to spark curiosity. Include elements for courageous play across 6 categories to build resilience. Design clear play zones to support social interactions. After installing, talk with educators on using intentionally. Environments evolve, so observe children continuously.
· September 2, 2022

Lukas Ritson is an educator, designer and international speaker, including TEDx. Lukas’ work has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of children across Australia and overseas.

In addition to advocating for play within education and supporting an award-winning innovative design team in the Early Childhood sector, Lukas co-founded the company Wearthy with his wife Vanessa. Wearthy has influenced conversations on the needs of school children and continues to make an imprint on community engagement.

Lukas’s background as an Early Childhood Educator and community gardener is evident as he discusses how play, designing play spaces and environmental sustainability comes together.

In this session, Lukas shares his expertise on creating nature-inspired outdoor environments that support children’s development.

Lukas emphasises the importance of understanding the local context – the needs and experiences of children in that specific community before designing the space. This includes looking at data on child development and talking to educators to identify priorities. The goal is to create an environment with diversity, wonder and possibilities that allows children the freedom to grow and thrive.

Some key insights:

  • Use local native plants to attract wildlife and create little pockets of nature that spark curiosity. Consider things like host plants for butterflies or tiles with eco-systems to promote biodiversity.
  • Include elements for risky, courageous play across 6 categories – speed, height, tools, loose parts, social interactions and secluded spaces. This builds resilience.
  • Design areas that give cues about the type of play happening there. It helps children negotiate social interactions and smooth transitions between activities.
  • After installing a new design, talk with educators about using the space intentionally to embed positive habits from the start. Model joy, confidence and trust in the environment.

Lukas emphasises that good design is an ongoing process – environments evolve and educators should continually observe how children use and imprint themselves on the space. The goal is to create an immersive experience where children identify as part of nature and develop empathy that can lead to sustainability practices.

Watch the full conversation to see images of Lukas’s inspiring designs and nature play spaces that support the whole child.

This episode was originally broadcast on the 2nd of September 2022.


Play it Forward – Wearthy Podcast:

Ellen Sandseter ‘Risky play’:

Dr Sandra Duncan:

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