The Importance of Good Design: Comparing Play in the UK vs US

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Play environments encourage physical activity, socialization, and provide opportunities to get outside. However, many of these environments in the United States have become increasingly homogenized and safe as play regulations and insurance requirements respond to societal concerns over children’s risk and safety. Play environments in countries with a higher tolerance of risk often offer more dynamic and interesting play models.

Over a 6-month period in London, we visited 45 playgrounds and assessed 16, collecting data on user gender, age, ethnicity, and activity levels. By comparing playgrounds of similar size (.25-.75 acres) and population density (50,000-175,000 people in 1-mile radius) in London to those in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, we discovered that environments with fewer “off the shelf” components with more unique design elements and play surfaces, had 55% more visitors and 16-18% higher moderate to vigorous physical activity in children and teens.
Distance Learning
Course Equivalency
Development Trends
Parks & Recreation
Health, Safety and Welfare
Learning Outcomes
1. Learn about different play environment design models, including varieties of equipment and surfacing.
2. Discover equipment and surfacing types that encourage higher levels of physical activity and promote health.
3. Explore direct observation techniques for assessing the built environment.
Meghan Talarowski, Associate ASLA
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American Society of Landscape Architects

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