Listen Up Playground Patrons and Playground Designers

I have a strange preoccupation. I keep a digital record of play that occurs vigorously and spontaneously on non-playground sites.  I also accumulate pictures of playgrounds where kids use play equipment in unintended- but often stimulating, sometimes horrifying – ways. I have pulled three examples from my “archives” and am showing them here. My hope is that these might give some clues to playground patrons and designers as to what is needed on American playgrounds. As a group, these three “snippets” illustrate some of essential ways that children could play, ways that are frequently not adequately addressed today on traditional playgrounds.

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Do We Know How To Get Information?

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How can we learn what children utnd adults want and need in playgrounds? And how can we make sure that those playgrounds are a vital public space?

These questions were front and center when I participated in a recent review for students in a graduate program for landscape architects.  The focus of the course was how to create playgrounds that would stimulate creative, harmonious, healthy urban living.

One of my fellow jurors chastised (rightfully) these young designers for failing to diligently observe how local folks – young and old- used the designated spaces during the course of the day.  How did participants and their activities change as the day progressed?  Who interacted with whom? What did they DO?

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