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Do You Want to Build A Playground

by Francis Wardle
May/June 2018
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/do-you-want-to-build-a-playground/5024189/

Approaches to caring for and educating young children have changed and progressed over the years; so, too, have ideas about the design of playgrounds for young children. These ideas have been influenced by educational movements, physical exercise advocates, equipment manufacturers, and nature enthusiasts (Frost, 1992). Beginning with Friedrich Froebel’s view of the importance of outdoor play, which essentially involved the creative use of the entire outdoor environment with young children (Froebel, 1887), the design of playgrounds for young children has followed a path that has included sand gardens, outdoor gymnasiums, the use of physical fitness equipment, and equipment that looked more like rockets and space vehicles than equipment children would actually play on, to the adventure playgrounds and creative playgrounds of the 1960s–1980s. Today, playgrounds for young children seem to either be composed of brightly colored sterile plastic and metal constructions set in wood mulch, rubber mats, or ground tires, or nature playgrounds. 

As the early childhood field faces new STEM curricula, playground safety requirements, insurance costs, and competing ideas about the very purpose of early education, it is easy to be confused about playground design and equipment. Here I propose that the cognitive play stages of Jean Piaget ...

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