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Playgrounds and Child Development

TPL’s Land & People magazine is out and has a nice feature article on the role of playgrounds in child growth and development. Here’s an excerpt:

Well-designed parks and playgrounds can mimic opportunities for exploration and risk-taking in nature, says landscape architect Jennifer Worth of TPL’s Parks for People-Bay Area initiative. Playground designers are moving away from the old, prescriptive, post-and-platform structures that implicitly tell kids what to do on them: climb here, slide there. And despite their small size, many new playgrounds contain a natural component, such as a grassy field, trees, or a landscaped border.

For example, a ring of boulders is included in the design of a newly refurbished playground in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, and every time Worth visits, she sees at least one kid jumping from boulder to boulder.

The new playground at P.S. 242 in Harlem is one of 30 new play spaces created by TPL’s New York City Playgrounds Program in recent years. Photo: Yola Monakhov

“Often a natural feature will be the kids’ favorite place in a playground,” she says, “because it’s different from the standard play equipment they see at every other park.” A good playground offers lots of choices for kids, Worth explains. “It has different colors, textures, surfaces, and encourages a variety of activities,” she says. “Just like nature, a good playground presents many opportunities for kids to engage physically, socially, and cognitively.”

Playground designers are seeking various ways to incorporate natural features into playgrounds, says Tom Norquist, senior vice president of marketing for GameTime/PlayCore, a leading manufacturer of play systems and an important supporter of TPL’s effort to help transform New York City schoolyards into beneficial playgrounds. “Each site has its own natural amenities that you want to build around,” Norquist notes. “We’ve recently installed several playgrounds around large trees. A beautiful, natural tree is a feature in the environment, a place for shade, a place for all the birds and squirrels and things that live in it—and we’ve incorporated playing in the tree as part of the playground.”

3 Responses

  1. An exciting part of TPL’s work with the NYC playgrounds, is their leadership in the area of shared-use (joint-use) agreements with school systems.

    We too often see cities that have their entire inventory of school playgrounds locked-up during holidays, on weekends, and over the summer…all prime-times for young people to play.

    We’ve been featuring Tucson’s work as another best practice in this regard, where 12 elementary schoolyards were kept open for play this past summer, as a pilot partnership of the Department of Parks and Rec and Tucson Unified.

    These steps are an essential part of making play opportunities and access to quality playspaces a more regular part of every child’s daily life.

  2. Thanks for the example from Tuscon. You raise an interesting point. For a lot of TPL’s work, we’re upgrading the sites from asphalt only school yards, but in many cities the schoolyards are already there, and they’re just not open to the public..

  3. Fixman sells children playground equipment for Latvian and Estonian market, specializing in top of range quality park and play products for small kids

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