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Considerations on Design and Nature from the Working Group on Play

World Play urges designers of spaces for children to prioritize the urgent need to facilitate active and hands-on creative play at a time when both are threatened by societal forces around the world. With that in mind, whenever possible, those responsible should provide play spaces that:

  • Are safe, while allowing for developmentally appropriate independence and exploration
  • Are free of advertising and screen-based entertainment
  • Make use of local materials as much as possible
  • Invite a variety of opportunities for different kinds of open-ended play, with diverse structures and materials that can be used in multiple ways, to sit, climb, swing, etc.
  • Provide lots of open space for gross motor games (football, netball, basketball etc.)
  • Include safe, cozy spaces (indoors and out) where children can create their own worlds and engage in individual, or very small group play
  • Include many “loose parts” that allow children to construct, invent, and pretend. Even if loose parts tend to “wander off,” efforts to supply them will contribute to the quality of play for the children. Loose parts can include natural materials such as sticks, rocks, and logs.
  • Offer materials at a level that children can reach and see
  • Include opportunities to connect with nature. Research tells us that children play more creatively in green space.
  • Provide adequate natural light and ventilation indoors
  • Be well-lit, and also include some areas that are covered or shady outdoors
  • Include wheelchair-friendly surfaces and equipment that help kids with physical challenges move around and join freely in play activities

Furthermore,

  • Design of play spaces should include input from children, educators, community members, urban planners, administrative authorities and policymakers
  • Those responsible for designing play spaces should integrate into the design children’s voices or perspectives on things they would like to see or play with in the designated area.
  • Town planners and administrative authorities should allocate common play spaces for children in all residential neighborhoods, especially in dense urban areas and work to ensure that allocated play spaces are not taken over or acquired for other purposes.