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A playscape (’plā, skāp) is a playful landscape characterised by the occurrence of enjoyment by the public and all those that interact with it. Sometimes playscapes look and feel like a natural environment. However, landscape architects and designers are increasingly using the term to express areas of cities that encourage interaction and enjoyment of all ages.
The natural playscape (or natural playground) is defined as a space with as few man-made components as possible. Using native plants, rolling hills, and lots of trees, these playscapes represent a natural place such as a forest. Playscapes are designed with the intent of bringing people back to nature.
Urban playscapes are similar to natural playgrounds insofar as they break from the need for specific play equipment; they are defined not by clear boundaries but through a shaping of the landscape to encourage play and interaction.
Playscapes offer a wide range of open-ended play options that allow people to be creative and use their imagination. Playscapes offer a wide range of developmental benefits to children, rehabilitation programs and all people in general.
Playscapes are designed to eliminate fall heights. Playscapes have rolling hills and fallen logs rather than a central play structure with monkey bars. Playscapes have much lower injury rates than standard playgrounds.
Playscapes have a fraction of the number of child injuries compared to standard playgrounds with play structures. The most frequent injury to children on playgrounds is a fracture of the upper limb resulting from falls from climbing apparatuses. The second most common cause of injury to children on playgrounds is falls from slides. Fall heights are the largest safety issue for most safety inspectors.
Playscapes combat the issue of fall heights by using topography changes for children to climb and experience changes in height. Companies in Canada have made strides in reducing fall height by using topography as a main feature in their designs. Topography changes allow designers to be creative when placing components in the playscape.
Playscapes offer a wide range of benefits such as increasing physical activity, fine and gross motor skills & cognitive development. They are also used in horticultural therapy for rehabilitation of mental and/or physical ailment. They increase participation rates and decrease absenteeism, decrease bullying, decrease injury rates, increase focus and attention span and help with social skills in schools. Playscapes have shown to increase children's level of physical activity, and motor ability. Playscapes are found to be very beneficial in the growth and development of children both mentally and physically. Cognitive development, focus, attention span and social skills are all improved.
Playscapes are not intimidating regardless of ability or fitness level. Playscapes have no central location, or prescribed area of play. They are open-ended spaces that entice children to use their imagination and creativity. Playscapes do not prescribe in an area that encourages a physical hierarchy, thus reducing bullying and competition based on physical strength and ability.
Playscapes are not limited to public parks and schools. Select hospitals in Sweden and North America have playscapes on their facility. Hospitals use playscapes for horticultural therapy, which has proven to increase emotional, cognitive, and motor improvements and increased social participation, quality of life and well-being.
Since 2006 Landscape Architects Adam White and Andrée Davies have pioneered the playscape approach to play space design in the UK. They have won a number of design and community engagement awards each year for their work; these have included: RHS Gold Medal and BBC Peoples Choice Award, Landscape Institute Communication & Presentation Award, Horticultural Weekly Award and Children and Young Peoples Services Award for genuine community design engagement.
In 2009 they won the award for the 'UK's Best Play Space' at the Horticultural Week Awards and were shortlisted for December's BALI Construction Awards and the UK Landscape Architects Design Awards. In 2007 and they were reported as ‘ahead of the game’ in their profession by the Sunday Telegraph, and in June 2009 they were profiled in The Times for their recently completed Lyric Theatre Roof Terrace Garden in Hammersmith, London.
Nature playgrounds use natural landscapes, natural vegetation, and materials in a creative and interactive way for child play and exploration. Nature playscapes are created for the enhancement of a child's curiosity, imagination, wonder, discovery, to nurture a child's connectedness and affinity for the world around them.
The technological age has changed the ways in which children play, arguably contributing to childhood obesity. It is therefore up to parents, communities and schools to re-introduce to children what it means to play in the outdoors.
Play components may include earth shapes (sculptures), environmental art, indigenous vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, lichens, mosses), boulders or other rock structures, dirt and sand, natural fences (stone, willow, wooden), textured pathways, and natural water features.
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