Supplement Feature - April 2013
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Imagination at Play

Trends in Playground Design

By Wynn St. Clair

The playground then went under a major renovation over the next several months, as gazebos and slides were built into a hill. The center also planted dwarf trees, built a creek and landscaped it with rocks and flowers. They also placed logs and tree stumps in the area, turning the traditional playground into a natural playscape.

When Coe returned for follow-up observations, she found significant changes to how the children played. Their playtime nearly doubled in the playscape, as they spent time leaping off logs and watering the plants along the creek, according to the report. Coe also noted that the children were engaging in more aerobic and muscle-building exercise. They spent less time in the shade, as well.

"Natural playscapes appear to be a viable alternative to traditional playgrounds for school and community settings," Coe said.

The traditional playground users are also changing, as many recreation managers are considering adding equipment and play structures to attract adult patrons. In June, New York City park officials introduced Gotham's first adult playground at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx and have plans to install about two dozen more across the region over the next year.

The site is filled with exercise equipment such as chin-up bars, monkey bars, incline benches and balance beams that provide an old-school way to tighten abs and build muscle. Without seesaws and slides, it's more of an outdoor gym than playground—but the site still harkens adult patrons back to their youth, when time and energy came in seemingly endless supplies and it was fun to just be outside.