Wiki of The Week: Grad Group 3 (Gingko)
Our group response:
The presence of outdoor space could be the single most important entity in encouraging play and healthy activity in children. Team members who grew up in suburban or rural environments could not imagine growing up in a really dense urban environment like other teammates did. One team member said, “I grew up in a neighborhood with ¼ acre lawns in front of most houses. When you combined 2 of them together, you had the perfect field for whatever game we wanted to play… dodge ball, kickball, football, baseball, soccer, etc. The Bell reading stated that children who live in areas with more green space are less likely to show an increase in their Body Mass Index (BMI) score when compared to children who live in areas with less greenspace (Bell, 2008). The lack of open space (private or public) and freedom to roam is can not be good for the health of our children.
Figure 1. Kids are having fun in backyard.
As designers, we think that:
1. Planting strategies are highly important. For example, seed pods are always good element for children to play with. Bark from the tree, strange shape of a tree, and big roots are all “catchy” landscape elements that grab their attention.
2. Loose part theory could be perfectly introduced in the landscape by elements such as branches and sand. Branches could be “piled together or a few boards lashed together to create a primitive structure” (Sobel, 1993, p71).
3. Spaces should be designed as various types for dynamic play opportunities. Some could be spacious for running, some could be quite and cool for make-believe play, which is recognized to have positive effects to children’s mental abilities(Berk, 2006, p233), and some could be small and hazy for them to hide and get the feeling of “just for me”(Sober, 1993, p72).
Figure 2. A girl playing in solitary make-believe play on a branch; maybe creating some imaginary companions! by solitary make-believe play, Children may display complex pretend play and become more sociable with peers, which will help them in understanding others’ viewpoints
Figure 3. Quiet reflection: A girl is playing with flowers
One team member commented: “I am not sure if my family’s schedule affected the way my younger brother and I played, but I do know that my family dynamics actually changed the way we played. When I was a kid, my parents worked really hard on weekdays and even weekends, so my grand parents were my actual guardians. They brought me to parks every weekend after we had Dimsum together in a restaurant called Shung Ji. What they typically did was to drop me at a playground while they sat and read the newspaper on a bench.
However, when my younger brother was born, my grandparents had all passed away and I was the one who took my younger brother to play outside on weekends. And quite differently, I played with my younger brother no matter where we went. Since he came with a big old brother all the time, he was always the one who sent peer pressures to others. And he naturally became group leader whenever he played with others. His role of big bully never changed no matter how many times I told him that it is not good.”
Figure 4. Boy bully
As Burdette and Whitaker suggest in their article in comparison with adults children have less tolerance for doing the same activity repeatedly and it feels mundane for them much sooner that it does for adults. As stated in the article “These differences may result from differing needs of the developing brain to provide itself, through activity, with a pattern of varied stimulation from the environment that sub serves its own optimal development.(Burdette and Whitaker, 2005)”
Therefore, natural environments as places that foster a more diverse and challenging environment and containing more “loose parts” are more likely to encourage creative playing. Moreover, different natural elements have different potentials for play and even the most mediocre thing as everyday sunshine can be a source of inspiration for cognitive development such as watching reflect of sunshine in the movement of water, playing with it with a magnifying glass, watching it making patterns on the ground through movements of tree leaves, etc.
Figure5. Children Playing with a natural element such as water noticing different qualities of that element and using it in their play
Furthermore, outdoor environments are less prone to limitation by constraints on children’s motor movement and have fewer limitations regarding visual range and exploration (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005). All of these factors combined encourage being imaginative, creative and simulates curiosity. Having considered that, this leads to more physical activity which exploration requires and even more creative playing which these green environments foster.
Figure 6. Make-Believe Play: Children’s Exploration of natural environment while thinking about their own and others’ fanciful representations which is crucial in beginning to reason about people’s mental activities
Figure 7. Children’s Gross motor skills, “natural” environments are the perfect place for active outdoor social play encouraging more physical activity through playing
Figure 8. Childhood obesity, Being in “nature provides more opportunity for children to engage in physical activities and simultaneously provide opportunities for social and cognitive development
In order to play creatively, we believe designing green landscapes with “Extent” – the component also present in Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan& Kaplan, 1998) – is an important factor in development of imagination and creativity contributing to development of a child’s cognitive skills. Kaplan describes Extent in green spaces as “being a whole different world”, which could be directly related to Sobel’s ideas on places stimulating adventure and secrecy. The experiences of finding a special place that is “just for me” and ultimately symbolizing the special person inside.
Figure 9. Playing hide-and-seek in nature provides stimulating imagination and creativity in children leading to healthier cognitive development
In the Burdette and Whitaker’s article, we realize how effective pre-conceptions and impressions of parents are in formation of a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing: “parents are the primary mediators of gross motor play in their young children (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005)”; as a result, educating and encouraging them to highlight PLAY in their child’s well being could be a big step beside broader environmental and policy changes. Parents’ routines in spending their holidays inside watching TV or going for a run, biking or hiking with family will make a difference in children’s patterns of Playing.
Figure 10. Children spending time watching TV instead of playing outdoors. Parents are a valuable sources of providing children with critical opportunities to PLAY.
Summerizer 1: Kimia
Summerizer 2: Scott
Citation and Fact manager: Haoyang
Image Gather-er: Atyeh
1. Berk, L. (2006). Child Development, Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
2. Burdette, H., Whitaker, R. (2005). Resurrecting free play in young children: Looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect. Archives Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159, 46-50.
3. Faber Taylor, A., Wiley, A., Kuo, F.E., Sullivan, W.C. (1998). Growing up in the inner city: green spaces as places to grow. Environment & Behavior, 30, 3–27.
4. Bell, J., Wilson, J., Liu, G. (2008). Neighborhood Greenness and 2-Year Changes in Body Mass Index of Children and Youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 35(6), 547-553.
5. Sobel, D. (1993). Children’s special places: Exploring the role of forts, dens, and bush houses in middle childhood. Great Barrington, MA: Orion Monograph.
6. Kaplan, R., Kaplan, S., Ryan, R. (1998). With people in mind: Design and management of everyday nature. Wash. DC: Island Press.
Figure 1. Kids are having fun in backyard. From:
Figure 2. A girl is playing on branch. From:
Figure 3. A girl is playing with flowers. From:
Figure 4. Boy bully. From:
Figure 5. Children Playing with a natural element such as water noticing different qualities of that element and using it in their play. From:
Figure 6. Make-Believe Play: Children’s Exploration of natural environment while thinking about their own and others’ fanciful representations which is crucial in beginning to reason about people’s mental activities. From:
Figure 7. Children’s Gross motor skills, “natural” environments are the perfect place for active outdoor social play encouraging more physical activitythrough playing
Figure 8. Childhood obesity, Being in “nature provides more opportunity for children to engage in physical activities and simultaneously provide opportunities for social and cognitive developement. From:
Figure 9. Playing hide-and-seek in nature provides stimulating imagination and creativity in children leading to healthier cognitive development. From:
Figure 10. Children spending time watching TV instead of Playing outdoors. Parents are valuable sources of providing children critical opportunities to PLAY. From: