The theoretical and spatial conceptualization of responsive play spaces

Material Information

The theoretical and spatial conceptualization of responsive play spaces
Williams, Eleanore DeLoach
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
iv, 82 leaves : illustrations, charts, maps, plans ; 22 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Playgrounds -- Design and construction ( lcsh )
Playgrounds -- Psychological aspects ( lcsh )
Playgrounds -- Design and construction ( fast )
Playgrounds -- Psychological aspects ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 80-82).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Landscape Architecture, College of Design and Planning.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Eleanore DeLoach Williams.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
15581023 ( OCLC )
LD1190.A77 1985 .W546 ( lcc )

Full Text

_____ Johnson, Associate
Professor, Landscape-Architecture
Prcf? i kf
t IT
Dr. Carolyn Simmons, Chair, Psychology Department
December, 1985
Date Due
t 1 1 i
1 i

December 1985

Table of Contents........................................iii
List of Plates...........................................V
List of Tables...........................................VI
Preface and Acknowledgements.............................VII
PART I: DEVELOPMENT OF THE STUDY.........................1
Chapter One: Introduction.........................2
Chapter Two: The Theoretical Formulation.................8
Chapter Three: The Research Design.......................14
PART II: AGGREGATE DATA..................................16
Chapter Four: The Child..................17
Literature and Review...........19
Findings and Interpretation..........19
Play and Creative Play..........19
Growth and Development by Age...19 Development Characteristics
Summarized for Design.........22
Chapter Five: The Play Equipment..............28
Literature Revriew..............29
Field Observations..............29
Findings and Interpretation..........29
Environmental Reactions.........29
Stimuli Assessment..............32
Design Considerations...........39

PART III: DESIGN SYNTHESIS..............................43
Chapter Six: The Concept.................................44
Determining the Site Character.......45
Choosing the Design Fabric...........49
Determining the Play Pieces.........51
Chapter Seven: Concept Application.......................56
Range of Application.................57
Case Studies.........................57
PART IV: SUMMARY OF STUDY............................... 67
Chapter Eight: Conclusion................................68
Evaluation of Hypothesis..........69.72
Conclusion of Study..................73

This thesis project originated in my desire to create for others that freedom I had as a child. Children need to explore their environment and in it find resources and flexibility that will support their growth. These early years form the basis for the rest of their lives. "...To encounter again, as a grown-up, a particular smell or taste from childhood awakens memories from which we draw power and inspiration..."
I would like to thank the members of my thesis committee for their help and support during the course of the thesis.
I would also like to thank the Center for Community Development and Design (CCDD), especially Bob Horn, for providing resources and funding.


Chapter One:

The Problem
In a study of childrens play spaces, one cannot help noticing the repetitious quality of designated play spaces. Most play spaces have very similar components with only a slight variation, despite geographic location or the ages of the children in the area. (1) Most play areas have swings, a slide, and climbing apparatus with sand beneath. Sizes vary from backyard versions to institutional versions. Materials include wood, metal, or plastic and cost between two hundred and several thousand dollars.(2) In addition to cost and spatial similarity, there is also something missing in each; children. (See Plates 1 and 2) "Playgrounds that deny the child; that offer no chance of involvement, participation, or manipulation; that are devoid of choice, complexity, and interaction will be empty of children a dead ground."(3)
Pew designated play spaces attract children, "If children are present, the area is usually quite new or there are other reasons for their presence, such as proximity to a day care center or their parent's enthusiasm for the facility."(4) "The playground
equipment is usually ignored, quickly abandoned, or merely incidental to the play experiences."(5)
When faced with such spaces, children usually play for awhile. They try some of the equipment and talk to other children or their parents. If left alone, they soon tire of the space and begin looking for something else. Usually they find another object or space nearby that is more desirable for play.
Children, especially those three and older, evaluate the contents of spaces very quickly. Desirability is determined in a few seconds. Yet it is a flexible attribute, changing with a child's age and needs. Today sand is more desirable than asphalt but tomorrow it may be the reverse. Some elements are more consistent than others. Water is very desirable to all ages of children. (6)
What forms the basis for these choices? Why is one space, or the components of one space, more desirable than another? How does age affect both the ability to choose and the

choices made? "Recreational planning has usually operated with leftover spaces, leftover money, and leftover ideas."(7) There is ample materials available on the type of equipment, and spaces desirable for childrens' play but it must be organized in a format that is more accessible to designers. Designers must begin to ask questions and seek answers regarding the way in which children play. We can no longer just assume that they do.

Plate 1: Residential playground Timber structure provides climbing, swinging, sliding features An abstraction of a cluster of trees?

Plate 2: Institutional playground Note similarities in facility design between a residential playground (Plate 1) and an institutional playground (Plate 2). Does this provide a full range of experiences? Compare again with a cluster of trees near a stream...where would you play?

The Process
Through the thesis research some questions have been answered. Others have developed, awaiting future research efforts.
Figure (1), illustrates the thesis process involved in answering and generating questions. The organizational flow is from left to right, starting with the introduction. The figure illustrates a linear flow, which though less complicated, is less accurate. The actual flow of materials is much more circular with feed-back and reprocessing loops. It is also dynamic,
sorting through materials and forming new combinations as data is generated. However, I feel it is more effective to utilize a simple framework to communicate the thesis documentation.
Figure 1: Process

Chapter Two: The Theoretical Formulation

Plate 3:
"...The more one finds,
the more one discovers..."(8)
Accessible play areas are becoming scarce as open space diminishes and density increases.

The Background
Play is an intrinsic and important part of a child's development. It occurs spontaneously in response to the child's needs.(9) Though thwarted by inappropriate spaces and play resources, children must continue to play or some aspects of development will be stunted. (10) Historically, children have been very resourceful, finding places to play regardless of what is given them. But will this trend continue? Resourcefulness has not diminished but the environmental controls have become more complex.
In the past children have been able to find other places easily. Availability and proximity were not problems. The problem has grown recently because of population concentrations added to inefficient land use. Americans have long retained the "frontier mentality" in their conceptualization of space. Efficient and most beneficial use of spaces was not required because there has always been another 'frontier' to provide space and resources for expansion. As the decades pass this has become more of an illusion than a reality, though it continues to influence
land use decisions. Availability of open space influences play spaces. As vacant lots fill with houses, play resources require a broader range of travel.
Crime and other harbingers of density have impacted children's abilities to find play spaces, especially in areas with high densities.
Most children are restricted to the land close to their homes. "Children under six years of age usually play close to their homes, i.e., within a radius of 100 meters."(11) (3.3'=1 meter,
100 yds= football field.)
Children can no longer find little niches in river bottoms or vacant lots where they can build a cardboard shack or climb a tree. They can no longer investigate wooded areas or prairies a short distance from their homes.
"In most urban environments the child's sensory experiences are extraordinarily restricted."(12)
Children are faced with diminishing play resources and a curtailment of their range. There are no river bottoms

near their houses because developers purposely seek land that is flat or that can be flattened. Left behind are the pieces that have character, unusual shape, irregular size, and topography. Yet these are the kinds of spaces that children need. Without these resources, children must play in designated spaces or unsafe areas such as streets.
Designated spaces include backyards as well as larger, public playgrounds. Neither have much to offer to children. Most backyards have little variety and less of anything that can be manipulated by children. The spaces are small and parental control dominates. Playgrounds, thougjh larger and less dominated by adults, are less accessible to children and equally sterile. Children must have spaces with resources that provide for development and growth. "The child is a product of his environment."(13)
Homogenized, sanitized play spaces are so free of risk and danger that they are sterile. They lack sufficient challenge to stimulate play. "In the eagerness to make play equipment safer and as a result perhaps duller it must not be forgotten that such
equipment, to have any value, must be used. It makes no sense to produce play equipment which is safe and durable, but which no child is interested in using."(l4)
Most play units are sized to accomodate the average child and thus, they fit no one. Small children can not reach the bars yet bigger children are too large for the swings. Equipment must provide a variety of challenges to a variety of children.
Many play spaces are an adult's conception of play. They bear little resemblence to places where children actually play. As symbolic representations of play, these areas are unuseable by children. However, play areas were not always this way. If we examine a reverse evolution of play equipment and areas some interesting discoveries can be made. Before there were timber play structures (Plates 1 and 2), there were plastic, brightly colored structures and forms such as those in MacDonald playgrounds. Prior to those there were metal play structures referred to as 'swing sets' or 'jungle gyms'.

Before that there were tire swings held by ropes from tree limbs. Initially there were only those things found in nature: hills, trees, streams and ponds.
Yet the play structures which have survived in their most primitive forms are those which originiated in the earliest era; tree houses, leaf piles, hay stacks, sledding, fishing, and water and earth play. Tree houses remain largely unchanged, although there are fewer large multistemmed trees in residential subdivisions. There aren't any old knarled cottonwoods to hold platforms either. Similarly, piles of leaves are reduced because suburban yards have few trees with even fewer leaves. Hills for sledding are also hard to find, but children usually find enough snow for a snowman. Fishing and earth and water play are still similar to historic counterparts except they occur in more 'civilized' areas; concrete pools, sandboxes.
Housing and land costs dictate that families, which require more space, will locate in areas where space is least expensive, less desirable and marginally settled with fewer amenities. Although the forms of play may not have changed in some cases, they have become scarce due to lacking play
resources. Perhaps we have arrived at the combination of factors necessary for change. Available land within communities must be efficiently utilized, playgrounds can no longer lie vacant. Play resources within communities, accessible to children without risk, are diminishing rapidly, and must be replaced. These factors, in addition to economic timing, may enable designers to provide play spaces which promote play.
The Hypotheses
My first hypothesis states that there are determinable aspects of environmental stimuli necessary to sustain and facilitate play. These are determined on a broad basis by an understanding of a child's developmental needs, and are tested at a specific level by research on stimuli response by age.
My second hypothesis states that these aspects, once clarified, can be integrated and related to the environmental context. A concept can be established

which integrates play function with indigenous environmental form. This interpretation of the concept is derived from my beliefs and philosophy as a landscape architect. Form must directly relate to utility. I feel that the sense of appropriateness and wholeness derived from experiencing elements which have meaning in a particular space will enhance the play process. The concept utilized in the thesis is developed through the site character and design fabric which establishes it's spatial application to alternate sites.
The actual testing of sites for correlation between design and usage will occur beyond the scope of the thesis at a later date. Thus, the body of work generated by this thesis is the theoretical, spatial conceptualization of a play space, responsive to both the developmental parameters of a child and sensitive environmental fit. A process which may enable designers to return the richness and diveristy and thus, children to existing play spaces.
The Assumptions
The assumptions which support my hypotheses are as follows:
(1) There is a relationship between creativity, the natural environment and play.
(2) Children require an extensive range of experiences to support positive development.
(3) There is a need for more desirable play space.
(4) The communities are willing to be educated and are flexible.
(5) All materials utilized in construction of the play spaces will be acquired locally and at minimal cost.

Chapter Three: The Research Design

The Purpose
The purpose of the research is to establish or reject the validity of the hypotheses. The type of research methodologies utilized reflect the nature of the hypotheses and the subject matter.
Most of the research done in this thesis reflects the need for a basic understanding of the problems. Before more specialized research can be done, basic knowledge must be understood. Existing literature must be assessed for implications to the study. Following the literature search, empirical research was undertaken.
All children evaluated in the field observations utilized during the research were between the ages of one and a half and six years. Approximately two hundred children were observed at twenty sites over a seven week period.
Following the evaluation of the research findings, application of the findings was established through the design synthesis. Typical sections of the design process were evaluated and design features redeveloped to reflect the research findings.
The case studies were then assessed for design application. The typical design functions have been included in the body of the thesis. Design implications of play pieces have also been included. Specific research methodologies are detailed in each of the sections under research.


Chapter Four: The Child

Plate 4:
"...The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child..."(15)

The Procedures
The procedures were minimal since this section involved literature review and assessment. Field observations were utilized to verify the literature on age related data.
The Findings and Interpretation
(1) Play and Creative Play:
Play can be defined many ways depending upon the source. It can be defined in terms of cognitive or physical growth, skill development, or sensory awareness. Play is very difficult to define because it is so consuming and involves so many facets of a child's development.
I have defined play in the following manner: Play is that process which enables a child to learn, assimilate, and develop physically and mentally, gaining proficiency in sensory, cognitive, motor, verbal, and social skills.
Creative play involves that aspect of play which allows a child to develop and "generate possibilities."(16) It usually occurs in situations where judgement and values have been
withheld and where there are sufficient items available for a child to manipulate.(17)
This reinforces his ability to test and create.
Creative play involves that aspect of a child's developmental process that I feel will be missing if we do not create spaces which reflect children's needs. Without the ability to generate alternatives, future societies will be both dull and unable to adjust to changing needs.
(2) Development by Age
In utilizing the research findings for age related data, it is assumed that a skill or developmental level can be accomplished by a given age when 50% of the children at that age can successfully accomplish the skill. (18) However, flexibility is necessary when dealing with children as indicated by this percentage. The remaining 50^ of the children within the age group are either above or below the skill level attained by the norm.
The age groups assessed in the research are one and a half to

six years. However, in any public space it is likely that children older and younger will be present. Adults, particularly mothers, will also be present in most play areas and must be considered in their design.
Designing spaces for children involves understanding their needs and abilities, and the way the space will be used. I will start with the very young child: the one and a half year old.
One-and-a half years:
The abilities and developmental levels described for children ages one and a half to two years old will fluctuate depending upon the individual child. Some children develop rapidly, walking and talking before they are two.
Others talk and walk hesitantly beyond two years.
At one and a half, a child stands nearly three feet high. His mobility is limited and his coordination poor. He reacts as a whole, his body moving as a unit
as yet undifferentiated. Sensorimotor development is very important to the young child. He is involved in the exploration of his own body and how it functions with respect to the surrounding environment.(19) One and a half year olds are in a period of "practice play".(20) They listen, taste, feel, smell, and grasp objects which are near them. They are attracted to bright colors, sounds, and movement.(21) They listen, taste, feel, smell, and grasp objects which are near them. They are attracted to bright colors, sounds, and movement.(22) Children at this age are very dependent upon their mothers and are not far away from their parents at any time.
At two years, new areas open to children. They can walk and talk. Communication with peers and adults enlarges their world as does mobility.

As they move farther away from the caretaking figure, they experience separation for brief intervals.
Two year olds engage in "symbolic play, the transference of actions to people and objects."(23) This is an important cognitive development. Make-believe at this stage is still an individual event.(24) Two year olds climb, run, draw, and mark in sand in addition to the sensorimotor skill gained at one and a half. Their movement is still awkward. If a two year old wants to stop while running, he must sit down.(25) He does not have the fine motor control required to slow his legs to a stop.(26)
At age three, children have grown taller. Their play is still in the early stages of "symbolic play".(27) Now they participate in some sequential play, although there is little realism involved.(28) Three year olds engage in make-believe by themselves as do two year olds.(29) However, at three, children can balance, throw.
catch, walk tiptoe, hang from a bar and descend a series of stairs using alternate feet.(30) Three year olds also ride a tricycle which increases their mobility in another aspect.(31) Three year olds still stay fairly close to their parents, although the interval of separation is increased.
Pour years marks the transition between symbolic play stages one and two.(32) Stage two involves the division of roles in play and more realistic sequential play.(33) They play with peers now, rather than alone or with their mothers. Pour year olds skip, jump, climb and run with increasing dexterity. They also draw shapes more realistically.
Five Years

Dexterity and complexity increases in five year old's play. They can catch a ball with their elbows at their sides and hop on one foot.(34) Five year olds can walk a straight line, move in a sequence, and carry out simple processes.(35) They are much more social including participation in social make-believe. Children at five can copy simple designs such as squares and triangles.(36)
At six years, most of the elements in symbolic play stage two have been mastered. This is the last phase before stage three. At six, children carry out actions as a group.(37) Their play is more realistic and complex. It includes an understanding of roles, simple rules and some decisions.(38) Six year olds are very active, their ability to go farther from their home has increased greatly.(39) They can ride a bike at six which also aids mobility.
(3) Summary for Design
It is also important to understand children as a group. Some characteristics are shared by all children or are present in various degrees based upon development. It is important to understand the way development influences these common elements and to incorporate this in playground design.
Among the attributes shared by children, hearing is one of the first to develop. Children's hearing is very acute at birth, and until sight develops, it is used to negotiate the surrounding environment.(40) Young children enjoy the sounds of other human beings, water, music and birds.
Figure 2: Hearing

Taste is another attribute shared by children. Tastebuds are found in greater quantities in children, occurring on the inside of their cheeks and throat in addition to those on their cheeks and throat in addition to those on their tongues.(41) Tastebuds decline with age until only those on the tongue remain in older adults.(42)
Figure 3:
Children's eyesight ranges from 20/100 at age two to 20/27 at age six.(43) They are very farsighted due to the developing eyeball.(44) Children cannot see well enough to read until age seven when the retina has developed.(45) Until then, they see better at a distance rather than close up.
The distance varies depending upon age and the individual. For example, a newborn infant sees best at about seven inches.(46)
Color vision develops early. Most children prefer unmixed colors in the red end of the spectra.(47)
Red is the most preferred, but yellows and oranges are also favored. This is because
children's corneas are clear.(48) Color preferences shift towards the blue/violet end of the spectrum as the corneas yellow with age.(49)
Younger children rely upon movement, object size and color until their sight becomes more acurate.(50) These aspects of sight and hearing enable the child to navigate at an early age.(51) How these senses accomplish the task is not completely understood.
Figure 4: Sight
Children grow taller with age, but females are consistently about one year's growth ahead of males until puberty.(52)
At one and a half, males stand
32.7 inches tall and females are 33 inches tall.(53) At four years, males stand 39*5 inches tall and females stand
41.7 inches.(54) Ey six

years, males are 44*7 inches tall while females are 47*1 inches
Childrens proportions yield interesting information which can he used in playground design. At age two. children have very large heads and torsos.(56) The upper body develops first and resembles adult size when compared to the appendages and lower body.(57) Internal organs develop rapidly at this age, making the upper body large and heavier than the lower body. Thus, two year olds are top-heavy, making movement difficult.(58)
At four years, children's bodies resemble older children's bodies more closely than they do younger children.(59) Their arms and legs reflect a more proportionate balance with the upper body. Four year olds seem elongated compared to the squat appearance of two year olds.
Figure 6: Proportion
Children's stances also reflect proportion and age.
At two years, children stand with legs spread far apart to balance the weight and bulk of their upper bodies.(60) Two year olds toddle as they walk, thus the name toddler. As children approach age four, their stance narrows.(61)
They are more balanced proportionately, their appendages and lower body balance their torso and head.
Development ally, children mature from their head to their feet and from the center of their body to the appendages.(62) Movement and coordination develop in the larger muscles of the upper

body before developing in the small nerves and muscles. Large motor skills are developed before finer motor skills.(63)
Figure 8: Development
Play represents another area of progressive development. At one to one and a half years, children engage in "practice play", while at two years, they are involved in "symbolic play".(64) The latter type of play develops in three stages: stage one, ages two and three years; stage two, ages four, five and six years; and stage three, seven and eight years.(65)
At one and a half, play does not include make-believe (in general); from two to three years, play includes individual make-believe; and from four through six years, play includes individual and social make-believe.(66)
Figure 9: Play
Behavior, like play, develops in stages. Young children are very dependent upon adults for their care and security.
Older children, particularly those over four years, are able to achieve independence for short intervals. Playgrounds must consider behavioral stages in design. Seating for adults should be provided near small children, and larger spaces should be found where older children play.

Figure 10:

Plate 5: Age comparisons See Plate 6 for discussion

Plate 6:
Note the differences in size and body conformation. At 3 years, the body is still disproprotionally top heavy, by 4 and 5 years elongation of limbs and torso occur and by 6 years muscular development and coordination form a fuller profile.

Chapter Five: The Play Environment

The Procedures
The purpose of the study was to better understand children's preferences for objects within the man-made and natural play environments. All objects or groups of objects were found frequently in places (designated and undesignated) where children play-
Data from this section of the research was gathered through field observation. Approximately two hundred children were observed at timed intervals, while twenty children were observed for longer periods (thirty minutes to one hour). The study was conducted for a period of seven weeks. Locations for the field observations included urban, suburban, and rural play areas. Observation logs were kept for each observation (see sample log. page 30).
The age groups evaluated during the observations included ages one and a half through six years. The children were observed during the study for 1) length of interaction with the objects of stimuli. 2) level of involvement with the stimuli (use of other materials to support the play or involvement of other children or adults to
facilitate play). 3) intensity of interaction with the stimuli (ability to be interrupted and return to play), and 4) the type of experience developed or utilized during contact with the stimuli (sensory, motor, cognitive, etc.)
The Findings and Interpretation
(1) Environmental Interactions:
The way in which children interact with their play environment is important to the design process. It is also important in gaining an understanding of the research results. The two types of environments reflected in the research are: the man-made and the natural. Both are considered in the play environment and compared to children's needs.
Man-made environments used by children in the context of play tend to be "course grained".(67) They are composed of objects and spaces which form relationships which are broad, loosely defined.

TIME (Start) PLACE (Type of area) (Finish) DATE
SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION (Materials, design criteria, experiences; length of observation, interruptions, complexity or additional involvement)
Type of response: Intensity:
Sample Log

and non-site specific. The scale is often large. Materials used within the spaces are solid, hard surfaced, inflexible, and resiliant to change. Weather, temperature, and seasonal change have little impact on the contents of the man-made environment. Its components are durable, requiring minimal maintenance. Yet the stability also inhibits growth; for growth implies change. The static quality found in the composition of man-made environments is also found in their function. Man-made components, with the exception of surface materials (i.e. asphalt, concrete), are predominately single purpose in design. Their function is often concealed and the initial curiousity aroused leads to a high initial impact. However, the bright colors and interest generated quickly diminish.
The components of the natural play environment tend to have a lower initial impact. They are more subtle, sensitive and "fine-grained".(68) The relationship between objects and spaces is integrated, flexible, adaptive and susceptible to change. The scale of the natural environment is small and continuous. Growth and change are accommodated at all levels.
Weather, temperature, and seasonal change have significant impacts.
Materials within the natural environment are delicate, flexible, malleable, and serve a variety of play functions. They also facilitate sensory experiences and participation. The numerous detached pieces invite manipulation.
Children tend to form 'fine-grained' relationships with their surroundings. They prefer objects and spaces which are continuous and changing. "Changing is constant and is the primary stimulus for the process of learning, growth and development..."(69) Since play occurs continuously throughout the development process, children need environments that can accommodate their changing abilities and desires. (See Figure 11)
Children prefer small scale, integrated spaces, often found in natural environments. Therefore, it seems that natural environments are better suited to children's play, based upon the similarity in relationships.

Child/Man-made interaction:
Child/Natural interaction:
Figure 11 : Environmental interactions
(2) Stimuli Assessment:
The results of the research provide further indication that natural environments are more conducive to play. The data collected during the field observations is summarized in a series of tables (see Tables 1-6).
The Tables indicated the extent of children's pereeptions/experiences with regard to different types of stimuli and the intensity of the responses. The Tables break the data into responses by age and by environmental type. Observations
of natural and man-made stimuli were categorized by ages. Children ages one and a half through three years formed the first group and children ages four through six years formed the second group. This division represents a difinitive break in the developmental process. The children in Group I are more dependent upon parents or caretakers, and are less mobile and agile. Their play is less realistic with only the early stages of make-believe play. The children in Group II are older, larger, more developed and more social. They are more mobile and coordinated. Their play is more realistic and involves social make-believe and group play.
The responses are categorized by perception/experience and include: visual perception (acuity, depth perception, and color responses related to sight), auditory perception (sound and pressure related to hearing), tactile or haptic perception (touch and feeling), olfactory perception (taste and smell), kinesthetic perception (spatial knowledge gained through movement and pressure on fluid in joints).

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Table 1 : Man-made stimuli, ages one and a half to three years.
The strongest category of response is kinesthetic perception (knowledge derived from movements), followed by tactile perception (touch). Motor skill development and the sense of touch derived from surface textures and temperatures are the bulk of the experiences noted during
observations. Stimuli which ranked highest (in decreasing order) are: 1-water spray,
2- water hose and basin, and
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Table 2: Man-made stimuli, ages four to six years.
The strongest category of response is kinesthetic perception (knowledge derived from movement), followed by social perception and tactile perception. Motor skill development and socialization with peers are more predominant than the sense of touch

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11911 1 (In in If metal poiee UUBULiUI 1111 hi
[ 13||go-rounda
I idll iim*tAl swing muoa
Table 3: Man-made Stimuli, ages composited.
The strongest category of response is kinesthetic perception (knowledge derived from movement), followed by tactile perception. Social perception, though strong for older children, is weak for younger children.
i s a
- 2 v
ns y1
5 I g
>i' oii *
1 stimuli
||| ||
~l!experience perception
116 hovels
m>lal scrap n

ll Hl]
[20|i plastic form |
:nsna. .ioe
[22]E~Jl concrete fHI
lt=Â¥ concrete |24j fabric
[25jj^|[watr hoaa |
ir water pumpl |
[27k ~ 11 watlr Pra:i j28|| | 1| water batinjf
[ II ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii n
|30|L_ II ii ii ii ii ii ii ii
Stimuli ranked highest are:
1-water spray, 2-water basin and hose, and 3-fabric and rope. Stimuli ranked lowest are: 1-metal poles and animals, 2-teeter-totter, and 3-timbers and metal bars.

[T][2][I][5] III
]| stimuli experience perception
1 ll/~Vj|hi HO*
~3~| r~^y_/---11 depression
~4][-vx^wJ[ curve

111 || small trees
][ i
1131| 11 tall grass
1 stimuli
|17l[jA-~ *_ ||berries
22 i-, boulders
experience perception
f25|| ..1-4] sand
]E [26|i~.
Table 4: Natural stimuli, ages one and a half to three years.
The strongest category of response is visual perception, however, kinesthetic, cognitive, malleable and tactile are all high. The responses are higher and broader for natural stimuli than for man-made stimuli. Stimuli ranked highest are: 1-water
pond and stream, 2-snow and dirt, and 3-leaves, pebbles and sand. Stimuli ranked lowest are: 1-curve, 2-large trees, and 3-small trees and ice. All rankings are higher, however, for natural vs. man-made stimuli.

Natural l [olfactory | [tactile [auditory [kinesthetic | i LL 0) f _y_ (social s o
m stimuli |l | experience perception
HL^JI- I ?7?n r 1 r mmik
[2]\ ||il TTTTj liiii ii
I 3 |^fl depression | jjffi 1 L rrrrr n
| 4 ||-wwwj| curve 111 L 1 E ULl
r^ii^!is M L. r 1 1 mrr Jt
[ 6 II rf-Jj pond gg g§ n g ra
| 7 || F || puddle L_ H |g n L
Sk-l!s,ream I m u;;;; Hi 1 m aI
l 9 ll filfaiNal1- |ishrubs 1 mom n H M a
Fiolffnr^r lllara. tnMM I 11 r 1 i Liu H-l
|ll||C0'i^' || small trees | W i p N: i m n
l i|i mu |l||l CUE
13lLi._Luu_ ij tall grass | p 19 m n
nr c L in 1 Wk*]
11fi|| ||twigs smsaoi B a
Table 5: Natural stimuli, ages four to six years.
The strongest category of response is visual perception, however, malleable, cognitive, social, and kinesthetic are all high. The responses are higher and broader for natural stimuli than for man-made stimuli. Stimuli ranked highest are: 1-water pond, stream, snow, and dirt.

r- .2
o a> > i .o 5 >
Li s (0 I 1 JC i? f LU o i
[l7lLamaJ berries
2-mud puddle, shrubs, leaves, and pebbles. Note: 3-would be still higher than #2 man-made. Stimuli ranked lowest are:
1-curve. 2-depression, large creatures, and island, 3-ice and sod.

1 1 IT
1911- ik>ub immml u si i
RoEm**mjbcuciiije j^EHnsnaa SD^DBLUaBS

I straw
ISlI^Xiia^Jlta* grass"
[ifilflaJa^,.. ]|<
PwlUWhfc! -Jf laavas
^experience. perception


1 I
[23j| r-i |Wia>ij|pt>t>ts~ |24jLs>^Ms 131
clay crsstursni

SiLw..-.^IESS satursag

a :e
Table 6: Natural stimuli, ages composited.
The strongest category of response is visual perception, followed closely by kinesthetic, malleable, cognitive, social and tactile.
The responses are higher and broader for natural stimuli than for man-made stimuli. Stimuli ranked highest are: 1-water pond and stream, 2-dirt and snow,
3-pebbles and leaves. The stimuli ranked lowest are:
1-curve, 2-sod, 3-ice and island. Older children show responses to cognitive and social categories while younger children show responses for tactile.

malleable perception (the understanding gained through manipulation of objects and space), cognitive perception (neurologi cal/mental functi ons related to abstract thought processes), and social perception (knowledge gained by peer interaction or interaction with adults). A total rating is given which combines the responses from the above categories.
Each response shows an intensity level of high, moderate or low.
The intensity determined for each age group is composited for an indication of the general level of response for all ages of children. This is shown for man-made stimuli in Table 3. and for natural stimuli in Table 6.
(3) Design Considerations:
Other factors must be considered in the design of children's play spaces. Most factors were derived from the literature and later verified through field observations. These factors relate children's behavior to different aspects of their environments.
---PS o

Figure 12: Scale
Children need spaces and objects which reflect their size, strength, and mobility. An appropriate scale for a one and a half year old child is quite different from that of a six year old or an adult. Seating height, object size, spatial relationships must all accomodate a range of children. From about three feet to about four feet is an active upright height for most children ages one and a half to six years. However, seated, the level of activity drops from about two feet in height to the ground.
Ground surface texture is very important to most children but particularly to the young child. Young children spend considerable time in visual or tactile proximity to the ground. Thus, textures should vary in a 1-1/2 to 3 inch range; small enough to be managable but not hazardous.

Figure 13: Variety
Play spaces should accomodate variety for children of different ages and skill levels. Change is necessary to growth and development. Portions of the environment surrounding the play space can he utilized to provide a varying context as well as c ontent. ____v
Most childhood accidents occur around the home or in traffic.(70) "... only about 5$ of childhood accidents occur at playgrounds and about 3$ while using play equipment."(71) Most of the accidents that occur while using play equipment are due to falling
and injuring the head.(72) Thus, the material beneath play equipment is an important consideration in safety. Most play areas have sand or grass beneath play equipment, neither considered safe.(73) The three best materials are wood chips, pea gravel, or a commercial synthetic matting. All have disadvantages depending on their use. Wood chips blow away and rot limiting their use to arid climates. The movement can be limited if a more fiberous wood chip is used such as an Asphlund mulch. Pea gravel is weather resistant and doesn't blow away but makes the use of wheeled vehicles difficult.(74) Pea gravel does move around with use.
Both wood chips and pea gravel should be applied 18 inches in depth under equipment to cushion the fall. Commercial matting isn't as thick as the other two choices but it is much more expensive and less durable.(75) It isn't as aesthetically acceptable either.
Climate is another concern for play area designers.
Materials must be considered which are appropriate for the climate and users. In

general, younger children need more shelter from climate, particularly from cold and wind. They are less mobile and more susceptable to the climate. Physical shelter near the play area is necessary. Provisions should also be made for the comfort of the attending adult. Seating and shelter should be provided.(76) Young children are also more susceptable to heat and sun. Shade trees improve the situation.
% * v t
Climate also has an impact upon the materials used in play areas. William Watkins did a study determining which materials were most suited to arid climates. He concluded that metal is the most commonly used materials in play/areas and it is also the hottest material at noon in the sun.(77) Black rubber, concrete, and aluminium followed steel.(78) However, concrete was acceptable if placed in the shade as was black rubber. (79) Watkins
concluded that "grass, sand, artificial grass and unpainted wood are the most appropriate materials for play equipment."(80)
Durability represents another factor which should be considered in designing children's play spaces. Materials and construction methods should reflect the type and amount of usage. The size and character of the space should be appropriate for the numbers of children and skill levels. The natural capacity of a space must also be considered. Some spaces are suited for small, intimate groups of children but would be destroyed by a large group of older more active children. Durability is also a consideration given the climate. Wooden structures may splinter and check if they are not treated for weather. Ropes and chains should be maintained to eliminate wear. Plastic materials should be replaced as ultra voilet rays cause deterioration.

Figure 16: Durability
Plant materials should be reviewed for durability and safety. Easily damaged or fragile plants should be eliminated. Plant materials which are resiliant to picking, trampling, and general wear will work better over time. Lilac trees or shrubs were found to be the plant most favored by children.(81) Cottonwood trees and apple trees were also favored.


Chapter Six: The Concept

The Concept
The purpose of a design concept is to generate a physical form which relates the information regarding the developmental needs of children to their spatial needs. This is accomplished by developing the character of a site, choosing the design fabric, and determining the play pieces. Since this study was limited to children between the ages of one and a half to six years, this will establish the age groups for the design fabric and the play pieces.
Developing the Site Character:
The character is the sum of the elements that give the site special meaning within the environment. No two pieces of ground are exactly alike for this reason. Based upon (1) the context, (2) the systems. (3) the units, (4) the implements, and (5) the spaces, each site has a unique character.
(1) The Context:
The context is the setting, the physical, cultural, historical, and climatic influences that have shaped the site. The context is especially important at the edge of the site, where the interface
of many activities occurs. The context forms the broad base, the first layer of the design concept. Here sites can be divided by the most important features. Whether the site is dominated by mountains, plains, or foothills, or by urban features or rural as was the case in this thesis
Figure 17: Context
(2) The Systems:
The systems comprise the elements which link or coordinate within the site. The organization of the site is based on the distribution of internal elements. The systems include the flow of people through the site using pathways (circulation system), or the sequence of play units (activity system). Also the flow of natural elements such as streams, rivers, wind, and wildlife corridors must be considered.

Figure 18: Systems
(3) The Units:
The units are specific areas within the site that address defined play needs. They may exist naturally such as a stream or climbing tree, or they may be created by the designer, such as a small hill for rolling. The existing site conditions should suggest the play units because a strong link between the play units and the natural environment will greatly enhance sensorimotor play
Figure 19: Units
Units occur in many sizes; smaller units with similar functions can also be joined together.
(4) The Implements:
The physical pieces (stimuli) found naturally on the site, or if the site has been cleared, those pieces that historically occupied the site. There are many types of implements that can later be converted to play pieces.
Some will require no change at all. Examples of implements are a sand deposit.
Figure 20: Implements/ Stimuli
a collection of river rocks, big boulders, tall grass, rambling trees, a pond, a single stump and a hill.
These are all implements that may exist within a site or may be created upon a cleared site which historically had trees, rocks, or water. This study favors natural implements based on the study results which indicated they were used more often by a wider range of children than metal, plastic.

or other man-made pieces (see Tables 3 and 6).
Figure 21 : Spaces (5) The Spaces:
Play spaces are the void or tension created by the placement of implements or play pieces. They are spaces which though not understood by children elicit a response. Play spaces are formed by branches of a tree, or by holes in rocks, or by the area below a shrub. They are the little nooks and crannies discovered by children as they play.
It is important to distinguish the differences between play units, implements/stimuli, play pieces and play spaces. Play units are spatial features which describe areas for specific play behavior. Sensorimotor, climbing/building. group play, and are behaviors that might be associated with play units. Play implements/stimuli are found within play units and may help to define the area.
Implements/stimuli are the raw play materials that can be used as they exist or can be slightly changed to better facilitate play. These materials whether unchanged or newly introduced to the site are considered to be play pieces. Even if the material has not changed, the surface below and the function have changed so that a tree now becomes a climbing play piece with leaves as well as a possible cargo net. Play pieces maintain their integrity due to their ability to blend or harmonize with the existing site materials and the environment surrounding them. Play spaces are the spatial niche formed as children use the play pieces within the play unit. For example, climbing behavior is associated with the group of trees (play unit) especially the first and third branches (play spaces) of the large oak tree (implement/stimuli) which was limbed up and surrounded by wood chips
(implement/stimuli converted to play piece).
Another example is: Several play behaviors are associated with the large wooden play structure (play unit). The


factors mountains plains transition
Context A\A [Qi] Q
Systems %
Units ft4 H i/i§ ^
Implements H %
Table 7*. Site character
sand (implement/stimuli) was cleaned and board walks, rings, and a slide (play pieces) were installed. Everyone seems to like hiding under the structure (play space).
Table 7. shows the five elements of the site character. In this example, changes in context (mountains.plains, transition) have produced changes in the other four elements.
Choosing the Design Fabric:
"The environment... can be described as the sum of what we meet when we go out into the world-the bricks and mortar, the sounds and smells, the spaces, the systems, the sights-in short, all the things that make up our

The ability of a space to id
generate play resides in the site character, however, the > ability of the same space to maintain play lies in the design fabric. The factors involved in choosing the f
design fabric are: (1) the division of spaces. (2) composition of spaces. (3) 3
stimuli present and (4) the controls.
(1) The division of spaces:
Spatial division in play areas is usually a function of either age or activity. Older children, ages four to six years, should be separated from younger children, ages one and a half through three years. Active, kinesthetic play should be separated from quiet, symbolic play. Both types of separation should not be absolute as children need flexibility.
Three types of spatial division are shown in Table 8. All three are equal divisions based on size, but the internal composition of each is different. In the first, each area is divided in equal parts, forming two halves. In the second, the space is divided concentrically, forming an inner circle and an outer circle. The third, is just the reverse of the second. For example, the spaces might first be
divided into areas for younger children and older children and then subdivisioned into active and passive areas. In this example, the active areas would be on one half of the play space, in the center of each play space, or on the outside of each play space.
(2) The composition of spaces:
Spatial composition further refines the spatial division with respect to appropriate sizes and character. There is a distinct difference in the size space desired by children one and a half through three years in age compared to the size space required by children four to six years old. Younger children utilize smaller spaces than older children. This is due to the different types of activities found in each group. In Table 8. the symbols indicate both the division of space and the indication of a larger and a smaller space. The spaces are subdivided to indicate the need for further delineation. Active play requires a different type of space than passive play. Active play utilizes open, uncluttered space, while passive play

factors ^one two # three
Division of spaces O age o activity / ##
Composition o size o character Q/o o
Stimuli o line o surface 0/0 0
Controls o safety o climate m
Table 8: Design fabric

utilizes intricate, object-filled space.
(3) Stimuli present:
The next level of detail is the quality of the space, indicated by the line and surface expressed in the objects within the space. Younger children engaged in sensory play need smaller, object-filled spaces which have broken lines and detailed textures and surfaces.
This type of space requires manipulation of pieces within the space to increase variety. Shade, shadow, temperature, color, texture, and season provide new opportunities. "Finding out what things are, how they work, and what to do with them occupies a great deal of the attention and efforts of the toddler and the young child."(83) Older children need larger spaces with unbroken lines, minimal detail, and hard-surface textures. This type of space requires movement of people to provide diversity. Between the ages of four and six. children develop the ability to play in groups, so spaces must accomodate multiple users at the same time. Therefore, the objects within the space are larger, too.
(4) Controls required:
Controls are required within all play areas. They are applied to ensure safety at the edges and within the play area and to protect children from the climate. Generally, younger children need protection from the climate and a sense of enclosure, while older children need protection from safety hazards.(84) Younger children are susceptable to wind. cold, and intense sun. Thus, the controls applied in all three cases shown in Table 8, are at the edges of the spaces most suited to younger children. Older children are more likely to engage in situations near traffic or to interfere with each other within the play space. Controls are necessary within the play space in this case.
The Play Pieces:
Play pieces are the physical objects required for play.
They may be pre-existing on the site or they may be placed by the designer or users.
They are objects that are either fixed or mobile, and they may change over time.
The closer each object resembles objects naturally

# three
Site character
o section
Table 9: The concept

occuring on the site the more desirable it will seem to children (see Tables 3 and 6).According to the results of the field observations and literature review, the following types of play pieces should be included in each play area:
(1) Some type of water play; a stream, pond. pool, hose, hand pump, large tub, sprinkler or fountain.
(2) Building medium; dirt. sand, gravel, pebbles, leaves, blocks, sticks, or tall grass.
(3) Climbing objects; boulders, trees, hills or ropes.
(4) Sliding, sledding surfaces; smoothe rock slab, clay hill (wet), metal slide embedded in a hill or other rolling terrain free of protrusions.
(5) Swinging objects; ropes, tires and ropes, fabric, or rope and wooden swings.
(6) Surfaced areas; concrete, dirt, grass, or limited asphalt for wheeled play or ball play.
(7) Movable, malleable objects; shrubs with leaves, fruit, twigs, or flowers that can be picked, bits of fabric, shovels, scoops.
buckets, pieces of wood, sticks, string, or rubber balls.
In addition to these seven categories of items, each play area should have shade or shelter, changes in topography, plenty of sunlight, and seating for adults.
Play areas should be a collection of natural pieces which can be utilized by a variety of ages for different types of play. Since change is such an important aspect of a play environment, it must be an integrated part of play area design. Convincing the designer to utilize natural pieces which provide for such changes is not as difficult as convincing parents. Most parents seek convential manufactured play equipment which can be purchased and assembled in a back yard.
They seem convinced that these metal and plastic pieces are desirable to children and will result in safe, satisfying play. They appear to accept these standardized pieces as the provision of all that is essential for play, and having fulfilled their obligation to give the kids a place to play.

they feel relieved. Even the most sensitive parents seem oblivious to the contradition these pieces present. They are present even in remote locations where houses are tucked into the hillsides and wood stoves provide heat. Even in these primitive, isolated areas far from cities, 'swing sets' still strike a discord as they stand covered with bright unnaturally obvious paint on cleared, flattened surfaces.
These representations of natural climbing, swinging, sliding surfaces seem so inadequate when compared to a simple, natural piece of the existing environment that could so easily be adapted for play. One tree, alone can provide endless entertainment and resources for one or many children of various ages. Pew 'swing sets' can make that claim. Children "... grade the challenges in the environment which they set up for themselves, setting each challenge just a little beyond their existing experience..."(85) It is for this reason that a single tree can often satisfy the same child's climbing aspirations for many years.(86) and for the same reason that a single tree can satisfy numerous children of different ages and abilities.
Perhaps an avenue for creating successful play areas is to tap
childhood memories of the adults who make decisions about play areas. By refreshing their sense of their childhood play areas they may be able to understand or empathize with the desirability of natural areas rather than the automatic response of a standardized play unit. If they can recover the memory of their own childhood play sites, they may recognize the disparity between the natural and the manufactured. Using their own childhood as a guide, parent's may be able to provide a truly unique play area. Such play areas have a catalytic magnetism about them. They draw children and adults alike. In any season they are active spaces, which seem to inspire play. They often have a history of numerious generations of use. But even in a newly developed area they can be created. "...An important aspect that seems to be ignored, however, is that, if a natural area for children is not available, one can be created."(87) It is the role of the designer to bring together the memories and physical possibilities of play spaces, to help adults understand the need for

natural play spaces, and to involve them in their creation.
It is towards this goal that this thesis is applied and tested.

Chapter Seven:
Concept Application

'"To go down into the water, or to wander in the desert, is to change space,' and by changing space, by leaving the space of one's usual sensibilities, one enters into communication with a space that is psychically innovating."(88) To take the understandings gained from the literature and field observations and apply them to specific case studies is to make possible such a space. However, reality does not always provide simple tasks and easy solutions. Included in the logistical problems are a rash of kidnappings which made field observations of children interesting, if not a serious dilemma. The other problem was the various schedules of the communities being studied.
The sites are assessed using the thesis data and design changes are recommended none the less. As this thesis is not intended to complete and monitor actual construction, it focuses on addressing the process up to the point of construction. Each case study centers on a slightly different aspect of the thesis process, but comparisons are still possible.
The thesis involves three case studies which provide a range of
physical conditions. Included are a mountain environment (Jamestown. Colorado), a plains environment (Otis, Colorado), and a foothills/transitional environment (Denver. Cherry Creek. Colorado.) The first two sites are located in small, rural communities while the third is in the city. The sites varied considerably in topography and ecological resources. The Jamestown site is near a stream with willows and evergreen trees nearby, while the Otis site is a pre-existing rural park, and the Denver site is a neighborhood daycare center with only a small side yard.
The differences provide some design challenges. The Denver-Cherry Creek site is taken through the thesis process, from the development of the site character to the design of play pieces. (Tables 10. 11. 12 and 13) show the pieces of the process. The site is very compact and intensively used but the natural play pieces provide a range of options. The existing trees are the most valuable to the objects within the space, providing play objects, shade, shelter, and

climbing pieces. (There was considerable interaction with the supervisors regarding the potential of the space, but relatively minimal involvement with parents.) The most impact gained from the approach taken by the thesis was the change in attitude of the supervisors regarding the need for natural elements in the play area, and a subsequent reorganization of the space.
The Otis site was less a case study of the thesis design process and more one of community involvement and education. Parents and neighbors participated in an exercise which was intended to relate the existing site potential to their memories of play areas. (They were asked to think of where they played and share this with the group before they took representative play pieces and placed them on schematic site plans. For example, one woman talked of playing in a strawberry patch as a child as she located a similar patch on the plan of the play area.) Children and adults worked together during the two hour session.
The Jamestown site received the least attention because ownership of the land was not resolved during the course of the study. However, the similarities and differences of
the site are used in understanding children's needs in the three communities. Jamestown is the most naturalized site of the three, but since it is in the area with considerable available play spaces (naturally occurring) it is not as critical a community need.
The only factor motivating the community to develop this site into a play space is the need for a safe play area, away from automobile traffic. Otis is less naturalized and thus has fewer desirable play spaces, though many more than the urbanized Denver site.
The alley at the back of the site provides the greatest resource on the site. It is lined with dense lilac shrubs and large elm trees. Unfortunately, all of the elm trees have been limbed up to provide clearance and are unavailable for climbing purposes without some access. The flattened topography is the least desirable aspect of this site, but could be overcome. The Denver-Cherry Creek site is the least natural of the three sites and also the smallest site. It is the most heavily used of the three sites and is carried through the design process to

a greater degree than the other sites because of the immediate need.
Plates 7. 8. and 9 show the three sites for comparison. Note the character of each site.
The scope of the thesis did not allow for complete development and ample extension of each site, however the comparisons of the site character, design fabric and play pieces involved in each are interesting.
Ideally, the mountain site (Jamestown) would combine the steep elevation, the rocks, swiftly flowing water, willows, and evergreens of the site character with the design fabric of climbing, running, sensorimotor needs within a safe area. The play pieces appropriate to this site would be boulders, abruptly changing terrain, native shrubs and trees, and areas that could be used both summer and winter for rolling, sledding and sliding. Tire or wooden swings would work well, however, since there were no large existing trees on the site, these would be available over time.
(Here a manmade wooden structure could be used until the trees are large enough.)
The plains site (Otis) would utilize a flatter terrain with pooled or standing water, cottonwoods and existing lilac shrubs of the site character with a similar design fabric except for the need for picnicing on the site. The play pieces appropriate to this site would be sand, flat terrain, shrubs and trees found on the site and accessibility to existing site features. Small garden plots are also desirable.
The foothills site (Denver-Cherry Creek) would utilize terrain of both the mountain site and the plains site except that the size of the site limits the potential for expression. Water is still highly desirable on this site even if it takes the form of a hose or pans of water. Sand and boulders would be appropriate, and shade trees and small shrubs would be desirable. The existing plantaine trees are an asset to the site. Multipurpose subareas expand the site potential, such as nearby sidewalks for a hard surfaced play unit.

Plate 7: Plains site, Otis, Colorado.
Note the flat terrain, large shade trees and lawn within this site.

Plate 8: Foothills transition site, Denver-Cherry Creek, Colorado. This urban site has very little potential natural terrain or plant materials. The large sycamore trees are the most significant asset.

Plate 9: Mountain site, Jamestown, Colorado. Note the terrain, plant materials, and existing site conditions.

cQ Lore Williams rgnj] M.L.A. Thesis
University of Colorado Denver, May 1984
] context 1
HI "wc- mu*m I
|^B | a^T [
I systems 1
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1 units__________________________ 1
^1 ZZI
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I ^ | ^Hf-j -uce. ^iryrxno
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1 spaces ~1
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Plate 10: Denver-Cherry Creek site

Lore Williams M.L.A. Thesis University of Colorado Denver. May 1984

spatial division
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spatial quality
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spatial control

Plate 11: Denver-Cherry Creek site

Lore Williams M.L.A. Thesis University of Colorado Denver, May 1984
ir MAJ 0*
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internal spaces
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Plate 12: "Denver-Cherry Creek site

Lore Williams M.L.A. Thesis University of Colorado Denver. May 1984

0 15 30
Plate 13: Denver-Cherry Creek site


Chapter Eight: Conclusion

The thesis process begins with the origination of the hypothesis or idea, which develops into the actual study. At certain points the thesis is met by antithesis; real world constraints and errors in logic. The resulting synthesis is the product of the two. Like all processes, the flow is rarely linear and there are numerous feedback loops.
The questions that led me to ray first hypothesis related to the quality of children's play spaces and to the inadvertant role adults seemed to have in their sterile composition. My own memories of childhood play spaces are filled with natural settings such as river bottoms, gardens, and alleys. Today children do not have readily accessible 'wild' spaces. Designated play spaces have become a reality, but they do not always provide the elements necessary to stimulate and sustain play.
The thesis provided the process for determining what these elements might be. and what is necessary at different developmental stages. Through the literature, an understanding of children's developmental needs is derived. Each year of development (1-1/2 6 years) is studied for
the opportunities and limitations provided. The most significant break in development occurs between younger children (1-1/2 3 years) and older children (4-6 years). Younger children are less mobile, less social, and more attached to a mother figure. They are developing sensorimotor skills such as auditory, haptic, visual, and sensory responses in relationship to their own bodies. Older children are developing cognitive, social, and kinethetic skills such as group play, make-believe play and play involving large and fine motor skills.
Designers must study children as the users of the spaces, they are the client in this situation. Their physical and emotional development forms the parameters of the study. These parameters become the design fabric as the conceptual approach develops.
Once childrens' play behavior and needs are assessed, their relationship to the environment can be determined. The backgound material was sufficiently developed that the first hypothesis was

tested at this point. The first hypothesis states that there are determinable aspects of environmental stimuli necessary to sustain and facilitate play. The research tested this hypothesis by observing behavior with a range of stimuli. Testing of various stimuli found in common play situations revealed that children do have preferences and that these preferences are age related. The ^inding of such preferences that are age related directly supports the first hypothesis. The two broad categories of stimuli tested are natural and nan-made. Testing utilized timed observations of over 200 children during a period of seven weeks. Younger children (1-1/2 3 years) responded to materials which elicited a sensory response while older children responded to social and kinesthetic needs. All children responded to natural materials at a higher rate than the man-made materials (see Tables 3-6).
Stimuli with the highest rank for all children are the following:
1 -water (in almost any form). 2-dirt and snow. 3-pebbles and leaves. All of these are simple, naturally occuring objects with the ability to change. They also appeal to many senses and can be utilized in many play forms. This indicates that natural materials are preferred by children in play
spaces, contradicting the present situation found in designated play spaces. This is one reason why children avoid such spaces. Rather than deal with the static, single use equipment found there, children look elsewhere for more desirable spaces.
The problems occur when there are no longer any alternative spaces. It is also a waste of time, materials and space for designated play areas to remain empty and useless.
In determining what could be improved in such spaces, children were studied as a larger group. Questions surface about their behavior as a group in a given space. The scale of spaces and objects within a space were studied and considered. Most elements within a play space must be lower and smaller to adapt to a child's size. In addition to scale, safety is also a factor. Surfaces under equipment must be cushioned and materials must reflect the climatic conditions. Shade and shelter are indicated for all play areas. Durability, though not sterility, is another factor in a play space. Children must be able to use all elements of the

space without inflicting damage. This does not exclude change, however, for changes in the space are to he desired and a part of the design.
Childrens' development and needs both singularly and in groups form a pattern of common play elements. In the study these were identified as the design fabric. They determined the necessary configuration of space. Such as a broad division between older and younger play spaces, and differentiation between the sizes and qualities within these areas. Larger more open spaces are required for older children where play occurs in groups and involves larger types of motion. Smaller, more intimate and detailed spaces are necessary for younger children who are discovering the world and their place within it.
These factors combined with an assessment of the site character and play pieces form the design concept for play spaces. The site character is identified as the physical destinction created within the site by climate and surrounding land uses. The assessment of the site character determines whether there are sunny, warm areas or craggy, steep areas, and how they might be used to benefit play.
Once this site analysis and spatial
determination based upon development are completed, the actual play equipment or play pieces may be designed. The field research indicates that the following types of play materials should be included in every play area regardless of size, (or that there are several smaller, incomplete play spaces near each other with the following types of materials): 1) some type of water play; a pond, stream, hose, puddle, or tub. 2) building medium; dirt. sand, gravel, pebbles, leaves or sticks, 3) climbing objects: boulders, trees, or ropes, 4) sliding, sledding surfaces; smooth rock slabs, wetable clay hill, or metal slide embedded in a hill. 5) swinging objects; ropes, tires suspended on ropes, fabric, or wooden swings. 6) hard surfaced areas; concrete, dirt, grass (depending upon the type and cut), or asphalt for wheeled or ball play, and 7) movable. malleable objects; shrubs with leaves, fruit, twigs, or flowers that can be picked, bits of fabric, shovels, scoops, buckets, pieces of wood, strings or rubber balls. In using these seven types of play materials it is important to remember

that children prefer natural materials and that the designer should "imitate nature; extrapolate from the natural form"(89) where possible. This requires a different approach than the standardized equipment ordered from a catalogue. It also involves re-educating those adults responsible for play equipment.
The relationship between the site character and the play pieces tests the second hypothesis proposed by this thesis. The second hypothesis states that the environmental stimuli necessary to facilitate and sustain play, once determined, can be integrated and related to the environmental context.
This suggests that the play pieces will fit naturally into the play space under a wide range of environmental conditions, that their harmonious agreement of form and space will enhance the play experience. The field research did not support this hypothesis unilaterally. In fact, it contradicted the hypothesis in some circumstances. It appears that the quality of the experience gained from the stimuli may be more important to a child than its correlation to the surrounding environment. Children even enjoy the surprise of a displaced element.
For example, a pond is such as important stimuli that it is desirable even in environments where it would not naturally occur. Trees, sand, mud. hills, and dirt are other examples of stimuli critical to all play spaces regardless of location. The actual type of dirt, sand and mud. and the species of trees can be sensitive to the environment. This will benefit the durability and climatic concerns of the play pieces. Thus, the second hypothesis is applicable at this level and also more significantly for younger children's play spaces. "In early make-believe activities an anchor (or realistic support) is required."(90)
Here it is important that the stimuli correspond to the environment in a harmonious manner. It is also beneficial to the development of cognitive capacity (thought processes) that stimuli be related to the environment in a logical manner. "Research show clearly that the first four or five years of a child's life is the period of most rapid growth in physical and mental characteristics and of greatest susceptiblity to environmental influence."(91)

These three factors, the site character, the design fabric, and the play pieces, together determine the spatial concept and can be tested through the case studies.
When the theoretical aspects of the thesis are applied to actual case studies new complications arise.
Yet the concepts still function in the range of environmental and community types. They propose to make spaces in which children will play because of a natural attraction. Part of the development involves educating the adults who make decisions about play spaces. This approach is used in the Otis case study and in the Denver case study. The next step, is the construction of the proposed designs. This is beyond the scope of this thesis, however, as is the monitoring of the space after construction. These are the true tests of the merrit of the study. However, much can be gained by the knowledge discovered on the road to the ultimate test.
In developing play spaces for children several factors were considered. The first, supported by the first hypothesis, is that there are determinable aspects of stimuli that are repaired to facilitate and sustain play. After reviewing the develoment and needs of children ages one-and-a-half to
six years, tests and results showed that there were preferences and they were related to age. The second hypothesis conflicted with the results in that the correlation between the preferred stimuli and the environment in which they are found is not as strong as was suspected. However, it is still important in the choice of materials creating the play pieces.
"Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are a vulnerable group with few past experiences to use as guides for dealing with their constantly expending world."..."so precious and precarious is our charge as adults, that we must take seriously our
responsibility..."(92) As designers we have an even greater responsibility to provide for future generations the spaces that will allow for creative, comprehensive, stimulating growth. The repercussions are severe "...limit the environment and you limit the man."(93)

1 Eva Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground. A Trilogy of Play; Volume I (New York. New York: Leisure Press. 1932). p. 189-
2. Big Toy Suppliers catalogue.
3. Paul Eriedberg. Play and Interplay (New York. New York: Macmillan, 1970). no page numbers.
4. Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p.86.
5. Paul P. Wilkinson, ed.. Innovation in Play Environments (New York, New York: St.. Martin's Tress. 19807. p.157
6. Ruth E. Hartley. Lawrence K. Prank, and Robert M. Goldenson. Understanding Children's Play (New York. New York: Columbia University Press. 1952)7 p. 175*
7. Priedberg. Play and Interplay, p. 17-
8. Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 188.
9. Catherine Garvey. Play (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1977). P- 41.
10. Maria W. Piers and Genevieve Millet Landau, The Gift of Play and Why Young Children Cannot Thrive Without It (New York. New York: Walker & Co.. 1980). p. 18.
11. Wilkinson. Innovation in Play Environments, p. 158.
12. Hartley. Prank, and Goldenson, Understanding Children's Play. p. 159.
13. Priedberg. Play and Interplay, no page numbers.
14 Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 7.

15* Ralph Waldo Hnerson. "Essay on Nature", p. 188.
16. Jerome Kagan. Creativity and Learning (Boston. Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Co.. 1967). p.x of the introduction.
17- Ibid.
18. Molly S. Smart and Russell C. Smart. Children:Development and Relationships. 3rd. Edition (New York. New York: Macmillan Publishing. 1977). p.192.
19* Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 188.
20. Garvey. Play, p. 25.
21 Yi-Eu Tuan. Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception.
Attitudes and Values (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. Inc.. 1974). p. 44.
22. Jean Piaget. Play. Dreams and Imitation in Childhood (New York. New York: Heinemann. 1951). p. 40.
23* Smart and Smart. Children: Development and Relationships, p. 192.
24* Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 40.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid
27* Smart and Smart, Children: Development and Relationships, p. 192.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid, p. 193*
30. Ibid.
31 Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 43*

32. Smart and Smart, Children: Development and Relationships, p. 194-33* Noren-Bjorn, The Impossible Playground, p. 45-
34- Smart and Smart. Children: Development and Relationships, p. 194*
35- Ibid.
36. Ibid.
37- Ibid.
38. Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 46.
39* Roger Hart. Children's Experience of Place (New York. New York: Irvington Publishers. Inc.. 1979). p. 21.
40. Hartley. Prank and Goldenson, Understanding Children's Play, p. 6.
41 Tuan. Topophilia. p. 46.
42. Ibid, p. 47.
43* Smart and Smart. Children: Development and Relationships, p. 194.
44- Ibid.
45- Ibid, p. 72.
46. Ibid, p. 242.
47. Tuan, Topophilia. p. 46.
48. Ibid.
49- Ibid.
50. Smart and Smart. Children: Development and Relationships, p. 194.

51. Hart, Children's Experience of Place, p. 15-
52. Smart and Smart. Children: Development and Relationships. Chart on inside front and hack cover.
53- Hid.
54. Ibid.
55- Ibid.
56. Ibid, p. 192.
57. Ibid.
58. Ibid.
59- Ibid.
60. Ibid.
61. Ibid.
62. Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 40.
65. Ibid, p. 40-41
64- Ibid.
65- Ibid.
67. Ibid.
68. Lady Marjory Allen of Hurtwood. Planning For Play (Cambridge, Massachusetts; The MIT Press. 1968). p. 33-
69* Wilkinson, Innovation In Play Environments, p. 58.

70. Noren-Bjorn. The Impossible Playground, p. 16.
71. Ibid.
72. Wilkinson, Innovation in Play Environments, p. 95*
73- Ibid, p. 94.
74- Ibid.
75- Ibid.
76. Lady Allen, Planning for Play, p. 33-34-
77- Watkins Quoted in Wilkinson, Innovation in Play Environments, p. 99-
78. Ibid.
79- Ibid.
80. Ibid. p. 101.
81. Hart. Children's Experience of Place, p. 50.
82. Priedberg, 'Play and Interplay, p. 15*
83- Garvey. Play, p. 41
84- Lady Allen. Planning for Play, p. 35-
85* Wilkinson. Innovation in Play Environments, p. 254.
86. Ibid.
87- Ibid, p. 31
88. Gaston Bachelard. The Poetics of Space (Boston, Massochusetts: Beacon Press. 19690. p- 206.

89* Friedberg. Play and Interplay, no page numbers.
90. Garvey. Play, p. 45-
91. Lady Allen. Planning for Play, p. 11.
92. Wilkinson. Innovation in Play Environments, p. 15* 93 Friedberg. Play and Interplay, no page numbers.

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