Children's Play, Play Environments and Development
The four study summaries focus on topics relevant to the design and use of fabricated or manufactured playground equipment – heights, overhead apparatus, climbers, and swings. These studies employed both qualitative and quantitative research methods and were conducted by professors and graduate students at the University of Texas, following review and approval by human subjects committees of that institution. The chief research method was observer-participant, in which trained researchers observed children at play on prepared playgrounds over extensive periods.
More extensive discussions of these and related studies are available in: Frost, J. L., Brown, P. S., Sutterby, J. A. and Thornton, C. D. (2004). The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International. Available online at www.acei.org/devbenefitsplaygrounds.htm.
Download Overview >
Overhead Equipment Use: The Developmental Benefits and Use Patterns of Overhead Equipment on Playgrounds
A PlayCore-sponsored study conducted by Joe L. Frost, EdD, LHD; Pei-San Brown, MA; John A. Sutterby, PhD; James A. Therrell, PhD; and Candra D. Thornton, PhD.
The activity of swinging from one arm to another on overhead equipment is called brachiation. The growing volume of research on the benefits of brachiation demonstrates its value for overall health, fitness, and physical development. This study examined the characteristics of children’s brachiation activities that are associated with beginning-level use of overhead equipment, through the developmental stages of use leading to and associated with mastery. In general, children progressed through fundamental beginning stages to practice stages, refining stages, and finally to mastery stages, each marked by ever more complex patterns of movement, greater refinement in skills, and apparent improved strength, flexibility, coordination, and confidence. The researchers concluded that insights from research on children’s developmental stages in using overhead equipment, and knowledge about the types of play chosen as children grow through these stages, are essential factors in designing developmentally appropriate overhead apparatus for children (Frost, 2007).
Download Overview >
Climbing Behavior: The Nature and Benefits of Children’s Climbing Behaviors
A PlayCore-sponsored study conducted by Joe L. Frost, EdD, LHD; Pei-San Brown, MA; John A. Sutterby, PhD; and Candra D. Thornton, PhD.
Research conducted in the late twentieth century established climbing as a developmentally beneficial activity for children. A number of skills required for climbing contribute to children’s cognitive development, including memory, problem solving, and imagery/visualization. This study examined the developmental progression of climbing, differences in children’s climbing behaviors across various types of climbing equipment, difficulty levels of various types of climbing equipment, and the types of climbing equipment that are most beneficial. The study utilized 13 different types of climbers used daily by kindergarten, first-, second-, and third-grade children.
Results of the study showed that certain types of climbers encourage or require children to engage in specific types of climbing behaviors. The slope of equipment, types of handholds, distance between components and various other features contributed to these different patterns of use. The study also showed that many factors enter into assessing the developmental benefits of climbers and in determining which are more beneficial. The research concluded that experience and practice are essential for development through the sequential patterns leading to skills characteristic of sophisticated climbing (Frost, 2007).
Download Overview >