Popular Science

Why kids should build their own playground­s

- MARIANA BRUSSONI, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

Recreation works best when it’s unstructur­ed and mostly unsupervis­ed. Negotiatin­g and building teamwork fosters proper higher-level thinking abilities and social skills. As a developmen­tal psychologi­st, knowing this made me reconsider a fundamenta­l piece of childhood pastimes: the playground.

To figure out if recess needed a reboot, I worked on a study published in 2017 where we modified the kids’ areas you typically see at parks—the ones with plastic slides and monkey bars—in a couple of facilities for children aged two to five. Because the standard equipment is sterile and kids can’t alter it, the setup prevents their imaginatio­ns from shaping their activities. We brought in sticks, rocks, and sand to see how those additions changed play. After two weeks in the new space, the little ones showed more cooperativ­e behavior; they talked to each other more and considered each other’s feelings.

This type of recreation is gaining traction. So-called adventure playground­s that originated after World War II are popping up again. These parks offer “junk” like shovels and lumber for kids to interact with. Some cities, like Toronto and Seattle, have also closed off streets at certain times to let children freely run. I’m optimistic that true playtime will make a big comeback.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States