Supplement Feature - April 2013
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Imagination at Play

Trends in Playground Design

By Wynn St. Clair

A recent study from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville found children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds with metal and brightly colored equipment. They also appear to use their imagination more, according to the report.

"Natural playgrounds have been popping up around the country, but there was nothing conclusive on if they work," said Dawn Coe, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies. "Now, we know."

As part of the study, Coe observed children at the university's Early Learning Center beginning in June 2011. She watched children play on traditional wood and plastic equipment, logging how often they used the slides and other apparatus and studying the intensity of their activity. She also recorded how much time the kids spent sitting in the shade to avoid the sun.