The Value of More Creative Play Areas for Children

As free-range children become an increasingly rare species, designers and psychologist are also questioning the effects of the sterile, innocuous playgrounds currently in fashion. How can play, and kids, get liberated again?
February 27, 2015, 12pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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According to a new column by Philadelphia Inquirer Architecture Critic Inga Saffron, "psychologists and designers are starting to question the value of what they call 'the playground in a box,' the factory-made, cookie-cutter climbing frames that dominate schoolyards and parks across the country."

Saffron cites the arguments of Susan G. Solomon's new book, The Science of Play, summed up in the article by Saffron: "Character-building adventure and imaginative play take a backseat to liability concerns. On top of that, she says, the equipment is expensive, making it hard for towns to keep up with the demand for play spaces."

Given the dearth of playgrounds in many neighborhoods in Philadelphia (or, for that matter, thousands of other cities around the country) and the ideas presented in Solomon's book, Saffron proposes an alternative approach to playgrounds. "What if the city ditched plans for new forts and opted instead for something rougher and more ad hoc, say, the playground equivalent of the pop-up beer gardens that have been so successful?"

Saffron goes on to describe more of the support (including the work of the Natural Learning Initiative) behind Solomon's approach to playgrounds. The article also includes the details of what such a playground would look like, most clearly exemplified in Philadelphia by Sister Cities Park, designed by Studio/Bryan Hanes.

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Published on Friday, February 27, 2015 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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