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The playground is an evolving environment that can fostering multiple play types and facilitating the future health of our children. The webinar will discuss current playground research that addresses multiple physiological and sociological factors to inform design considerations. Playgrounds were viewed as a solution to societal problems at the turn of the twentieth century. It was considered a place for children to get fresh air, work off excess energy and enhance physical development. A recent study of daycare providers identified that three out of the five historical purposes are still considered relevant today. Societal change has affected children experiencing more time in daycare settings rather than at home, increased adverse behavioral issues prior to children enter kindergarten, and their unsupervised playtime has decreased. We know more today that public playgrounds are now invaluable to address a child’s wellbeing affecting their locomotor system, neuro muscular system and social behaviors. It is a landscape that can be an invaluable strategy and investment to build community capacity for children.
Society has changed and it has evolved to understand children’s stress problems ranging from economic, physical, and emotional circumstances. The playground is a resource so children can adapt and cope with their daily challenges. Shifting economic challenges range from housing overcrowding to noise levels to stress significantly that affect children today. Physical stress can have negative physiological impacts changing areas of the child’s brain from communication and sensory responses. White brain matter is tied to the development of executive function in the brain which encompasses self-regulatory skills, focus and attention, and flexible thinking. It has been shown that executive function skills are important for school readiness and for long term career success. Children though are not born with executive function skills, and the playground can be a resource having some positive effect modifying white brain matter plasticity to achieve desired skills. Emotional and social responses can find nature helping the child to be resilient and confident.
The playground research discussed in the webinar should hopefully bring about playground benefits through design. Outcomes will include design standards, improved effectiveness and increased educational awareness to children’s growth and health. Finally, well examine creative alternative design solutions to build a child’s stress resilience and modify their brain plasticity.
1. Value playground as a key contributor to facilitating children's executive function.
2. Identify conditions of physical and mental stress that children face in lower socioeconomic conditions.
3. Articulate playground resources that build children's resilience.
David Watts is an Associate Professor in the Landscape Architecture department, and received his MSLA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a registered landscape architect with over 25 years of practice, operating a design/build firm in Madison, WI. He has traveled, taught, and worked abroad in France and South Africa. His area of research is children’s play environments, their impact on child development, and their role in reconnecting children to nature.