We need playscapes not playgrounds

Children could benefit if designers created playscapes instead of traditional playgrounds, according to new research.

A team at the University of Cincinnati explained that these settings are specially designed, dynamic and rich in vegetation. As a result, they encourage children to learn about scientific inquiry, maths and also environmental stewardship.

However, they may also have the ability to sharpen attention skills, reduce depression and lower the number of symptoms of attention deficit disorders.

Writing in the International Journal of Play, Victoria Carr and Eleanor Luken encouraged designers to consider playscapes as a viable alternative to typical playgrounds.

"They provide a sense of play that also addresses parental concerns about safety, creates pleasant play environments, supports child development and nurtures nature exploration," the authors commented.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Fiona Starr comments:

"In the current age of  incessant school inspection and the consequent over assessment of children in the UK, this research is extremely relevant and timely. After hours cooped up in formal education contexts, it is clear that children need space and time to play.

"Whilst all children do engage in regular outdoor play in the UK,  the average UK school playground lacks opportunities for risk taking, exploration, connections to nature and the environment with all the nurturing, scientific, sharing and learning opportunities that created 'playscapes' could offer. If only this were available  to every school in the country, the positive ramifications for children, their teachers and society could be vast."

Earlier this month, a study at RMIT University in Australia found that putting everyday items such as buckets, pipes and hay bales in school playgrounds encouraged youngsters to take more steps per minute but also play more intensively, creatively and socially.

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