Did you know that a playground’s layout influences how children play, create, imagine and socialize?
Most playgrounds are consciously designed to be safe, enriching learning environments. This is a great thing, too, because a growing body of research suggests that learning and socialization happen on the playground - not just in the classroom.
With this in mind, it’s important to understand how playground design affects the way kids play, interact and learn positive and negative social skills. Let’s explore some of the features that promote specific types of play among children.
Sand pits, troughs and water tables = constructive play.
Constructive play is an organized type of play where kids get to experiment with different materials like rocks, sand, water and pebbles. The best way to stimulate this type of play is by including sand pits, water features and surfacing materials into your playground design.
Physical structures = functional play.
Functional play is a type of play that involves using toys and objects in their intended manner. Examples include climbing rocks, riding bikes and swinging on the swings. To support this type of play, a diverse range of inclusive playground equipment is necessary. Slides, monkey bars, crawl tubes and balance beams all have specific purposes.
Playhouses and themed parks = symbolic play.
Symbolic play happens when children use objects to represent other objects. For example, a playground can turn into a pirate’s ship or a neighborhood with different “homes.” Kids are incredibly imaginative, so it’s important to provide them with natural spaces, treehouses and playhouses. A themed playground is sure to get kids in the right mood for symbolic play!
Natural, open spaces = self-focused play.
Some kids prefer to walk around and talk with their friends when spending time at the park. Others engage in self-focused play, which happens when they’re not engaged in play but instead daydreaming and watching others. To support these interactions, your playground design should include natural areas with trees and paved and unpaved paths.
Open courts and fields = cooperative play.
Large, open areas are a great addition to any playground design, as long as the space allows. Having these areas gives kids the chance to grab a ball and engage in cooperative play like soccer, tag or flag football. A paved expanse is great for basketball or bike riding. Boys tend to dominate these areas more than girls.
There’s no doubt that the way a playground is designed influences how children play by themselves and with others. To ensure your playground design maximizes what children can do, contact Cunningham Recreation. We’ll be happy to discuss your goals and how to nurture various forms of play.