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Playful pathways offer benefits that may not be achieved by other means.
The preceding research implies that playful systems offer benefits to children and families that may not be achieved by another means.
Extending play value:
Play value is what children find by “reading” the play affordances of a play environment. If pathways offer play affordances at every step along the way, children will be motivated to keep moving – reinforced by play pockets at regular intervals. Increased diversity of play value may support several developmental domains, including cognitive skills, building self-esteem, and learning to live together. Diverse play value can also increase inclusiveness by attracting a broader range of multi-age users.
Enabling health promotion:
Pathways for Play functions as a health promotion strategy for children, youth and families in that it counteracts the declining levels of children’s time outdoors and the negative health consequences for our society. Pathways can enhance the environment outside of schools so that children have an opportunity to increase daily physical activity, and serve as an outlet to reduce stress and aggression.
Expanding Inclusion:
Inclusion is a distinct function of playful pathways, which can be located and designed to attract a broad range of users: individuals with special needs, older family members, children of all ages (including those in strollers), and users from diverse cultural backgrounds – all able to enjoy adjacent nature.
Engaging Nature:
Play in nature is good for children. Playful pathways provide a movement channel to draw children into and through natural surroundings such as stream corridors, which offer multiple opportunities to playfully enjoy natural surroundings. Pathways themes can spin off into unscripted children’s games when natural loose parts, like sticks, stones, and pine cones, are available.
Reinforcing Environmental Literacy:
Playful pathways facilitate access to environments and eco-systems that may otherwise be closed to children and families. Multiple learning opportunities may be activated during informal play, through pathway excursions as part of school curricular experiences. The linearity of playful pathway networks offers children close proximity and “continuous experience” of nature that may not be possible in an average park space. Playful pathways also offer the potential for children to learn both through and about the natural world at the first essential steps towards caring for it.
Walkable, bikeable community connectivity:
Pathway networks may contain a variety of components such as sidewalks, alleyways, urban trails, nature trails, promenades, and many others, but the over-riding criterion is connectivity, which can ensure safe pathways for spontaneous outdoor play. These pathways can become a part of a new urban livability model. Walkable/bikeable neighborhoods provide environments where families can grow in place, where children have friends close by, where adolescents do not have to rely on parents to drive them to “cool places” to hang out with their friends.
Growing community social capital:
Playful pathways provide a great way for community members of all ages to share time and place together, to get to know each other, to become more informed on local issues, and to contemplate collective action to improve children’s outdoor environments. Local pathways such as greenways, waterfront esplanades, and rail-to-trail facilities may provide an important aspect of local identity, sometimes with deep historic meaning. As residents feel a sense of ownership, they may be more likely to invest in further infrastructure improvements.
Program developed in partnership with:
PlayCore Natural Learning Initiative
© 2010 PlayCore, Inc. and Natural Learning Initiative,College of Design,
NC State University.
All rights reserved.
Pathways for Play is a trademark of PlayCore.
Learning cognitive skills
The “richness and novelty” of being outdoors stimulates brain development.
Building self-esteem
Children who spend time playing outside are more likely to take risks, seek adventure, develop self-confidence, and respect the value of nature.
Integrating the senses
Sensory integration, which is supported by children’s experience in multi-sensory rich environments, is critical to healthy child development.
Learning to live together
Pathway linear forms allow children to “go on adventures” together in their local area.
Imagining a new world
At a time when creativity of American children is in decline, the need has never been greater to develop imagination and creativity, which are regarded as primary economic drivers in today’s rapidly changing world.
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Growing
community
social capital
can be stimulated when playful pathways connect neighborhoods to local destinations, such as parks, that attract a mix of residents who can hang out and get to know each other.