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Play Research

We believe play is the work of childhood and is an essential and integral part of all children’s healthy growth, development, and learning. At PlayCore, we pioneered independent play research to inform our design decisions, are dedicated to supporting independent play research conducted by leading experts in such fields as childhood development, physical activity, and design.

Through our research, we are able to promote best practices in the industry and the value of play in quality play environments designed to stimulate growth across all developmental domains. This play research directly influences how our teams develop innovative products, educational programs, and cutting-edge initiatives. Below are some of our groundbreaking play studies, which provide insight into the value of play and play's effect on overall health, wellness, and child development.

The Critical Place of Play in Education

A Collaboration Between the US Play Coalition and The Asscociation of Childhood Education 

What Education Organizations Say about Play

  • The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) recognizes the need for children of all ages to play and affirms the essential role of play in children’s lives. ACEI believes that as today’s children continue to experience pressure to succeed in all areas, the necessity for play becomes even more critical. ACEI supports all adults who respect, understand and advocate legitimizing play as an essential pathway to learning for all populations of children. When working with children, adults should use their knowledge about play to guide their practice. (ACEI “Play: Essential for All Children” position statement)
  • Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as promoting language, cognition and social competence. ... Children of all ages love to play, and it gives them opportunities to explore the world, interact with others, express and control emotions, develop their symbolic and problem-solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Research shows the links between play and foundational capacities such as memory, self-regulation, oral language abilities, social skills and success in school. (NAEYC 2009 Developmentally Appropriate Practice position statement)

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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).

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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).

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