Landscape Architect & Specifier News

JUN 2018

LASN is a photographically oriented, professional journal featuring topics of concern and state-of-the-art projects designed or influenced by registered Landscape Architects.

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June 2018 29 Child's play is about fun, physical activity and improving physical coordination and strength, but it's also about acquiring other skills on the playground. Landscape Structures (LSI) (www.playlsi.com) notes that few studies have examined play patterns on playground equipment to assess how play spaces may shape children's development. To better understand this development through play, LSI is working with the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development. One result is "Shaped by Play: The Formative Role of Play and Playgrounds" (Julie Vaisarova, PhD student, Institute of Child Development, U. of Minnesota). This meta-study avers that play has the potential to begin building the foundation of life-long skills such as persistence, empathy and leadership. The paper contends that different playground components facilitate different patterns of developmentally significant play. Overhead ladders and more complex rope climbers attract older children and facilitate gross motor play. Children tend to gravitate toward play pieces designed for their developmental level, and thus it is important to have age-appropriate equipment for children of many ages and ability levels to encourage a variety of play behaviors. Components like the OmniSpin spinner, We-Saw, swings and Sway Fun were observed to get parents involved in the play, but imparted low levels of physical activity. The 5-12 year old appropriate play structures generally facilitate peer play. Social play with peers was frequently observed and included collaborative group play and instances of older children helping younger ones. Play interactions are considered important for multiple areas of development, including language and social skills. Pretense The paper examines the role of "pretense" on the playground. Children begin to pretend as early as 12 months; pretense becomes increasingly elaborate as they grow. It helps build language skills, "self-regulation," creativity and social competence. Research indicates preschoolers tend to talk more during pretend play than during other activities, and that pretense scenarios have implicit guidelines that govern what is said and done, when, and by whom. It's estimated that pretend play comprises 4-12% of a child's time on the playground, and 4-37% of their playground play. One early study found a simple tire structure on a blacktop school playground nearly doubled the proportion of time children spent pretending. Other researchers observed pretend play occurs more frequently on play equipment enclosed or surrounded by other equipment, and on playgrounds with multipurpose structures, as opposed to isolated equipment. Pretense can be built into the playground with themed designs or by simply including language-related pieces (e.g., a grocery store with labeled products and signage, or an alphabet board with images of animals representing each letter). Social Play Adults are a child's first play partners, but children soon increasingly interact with their peers. These social interactions are significant in a child's development. The quality of adult- child play is associated with the quality of children's social interaction with other kids. Social play combines pretense and physical play. Peer play is about actively "negotiating" the rules of play and the roles in pretend play. Studies led by researchers at the U. of Penn. found preschoolers who displayed more positive peer play tended to be "better-regulated," less disruptive, had fewer behavioral problems, better literacy and math skills, and greater social engagement. is Elementary Physical Play but "Pretend Play" and "Social Interaction" Are Two Compelling Elements to Foster When Designing with Youngsters in Mind Editor Steve Kelly

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