At a recent TEDx talk, Todd Lehman, owner and executive creative director of Cre8Play, reviewed historical movements in play design and the early ideology behind play. In honor of Park and Recreation Month, we asked Cre8Play to share some of the lessons learned from the TEDx event. You can also watch the talk here.
Play for All
Play environments have the ability to level the playing field and act as an equalizer among children. On a playground, there is no pressure to perform. Kids can just show up and play at their own pace, quietly swing until they reach that ideal height, or they can join in on that game of tag without an invite. Playgrounds remove the element of parental rules and guided activity and allow kids to just be kids.
Outdoor play spaces offer a neutral environment for social development where children feel welcomed. In an inviting space created for children, they are more apt to engage and trust other children. They learn lessons of acceptance, togetherness, patience, sharing, fairness and respect.
Today, most play environments are built to ADA guidelines, making them accessible to children with disabilities. However, in recent years, play design has gone well beyond standard ADA guidelines with efforts to not only provide access to, but to challenge those with disabilities. These playgrounds are best at leveling the playing field as they provide environments that promote acceptance and inclusion.
Health Benefits of Play
National guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day for children and teens; however, the large majority does not meet that goal. Multiple studies have drawn a correlation between television, video game and screen time and obesity as well as depression in children and adults.
In October of 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics set new guidelines for screen time, reducing the recommended time for children ages 2–5 fro m two hours to one hour a day. They define screen time as using screens for leisure purposes, which excludes online learning and homework. Studies that link screen time to obesity hypothesize the following likely causes:
- Decreased physical activity due to increased sedentary activities
- Food advertising encouraging consuming less healthy foods
- Snacking behavior while watching television
- Decreased metabolism
Physical play is a crucial component in not only health and physical growth, but also cognitive development. Studies show physical play allows children to develop through experimentation, exploration and discovery. Kids develop many skills during physical outdoor play including social, risk-taking, decision making, and fine and gross motor development.
The Future of Play
Today our youth spends a good part of the day with their heads down in phones. And while they are engaging in highly stimulating games, these games require no movement. Whether we like it or not, product offerings to this generation need to match their expectations. Environments need to bring excitement and engage kids like never before. Successful playgrounds will now incorporate electronic games that require physical activity, such as “Simon Says” styled games that have kids running from place to place for points. Other activities built into the play equipment could include hidden figure scavenger hunts, custom sounds set off by sensors when a child travels down a tube slide, and challenges built into surfacing design.
The play space as we know it is changing, but as leaders in the industry, we can strive to be at the forefront of modernization.
Lisa Annis is Cre8Play's Marketing Ninja.