Playscapes are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex interplays of natural, environmental objects in ways that challenge and fascinate children and teach them about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world while they play within it.

A totally accessible natural playground creates a beautiful, outdoor play and learning environment.

Play components may include earth shapes (sculptures), environmental art, indigenous vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, lichens, mosses), boulders or other rock structures, dirt and sand, natural fences (stone, willow, wooden), textured pathways, and natural water features.

For a playground to be considered a "playscape" the space should be as natural as possible, with few man-made components. Using native plants, rolling hills, and lots of trees, playscapes represent a natural place such as a forest. Playscapes offer a wide range of open-ended play options that allow children to be creative and use their imagination.

Playscapes offer a wide range of benefits such as increasing physical activity, fine and gross motor skills and cognitive development. They are also used in horticultural therapy for rehabilitation of mental and/or physical ailment. They increase participation rates and decrease absenteeism, decrease bullying, decrease injury rates, increase focus and attention span, and help with social skills in schools.5

Playscapes are found to be very beneficial in the growth and development of children both mentally and physically. They have been shown to increase children's level of physical activity and motor ability.5 Cognitive development, focus, attention span and social skills are also improved.6

Playground safety

Combination playground structure for small children; slides, climbers (stairs in this case), playhouse.

The safety of playgrounds has been disputed in schools and among regulators. As the kinds of equipment found in playgrounds has changed, safer equipment built with modern materials has become more common. For example, an older jungle gym might be constructed entirely from steel bars, while newer ones tend to have a minimal steel framework while providing a web of nylon ropes for children to climb on. Often, playgrounds with equipment that children may fall off of has mulch on the ground to help break children's falls. Rubber mulch is gaining popularity due to its added ability to break falls.

Concern about safety in playgrounds has led to the establishment of safety standards. In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has created guidelines for both public playground and home playground equipment.7 These regulations are nation-wide and provide a basis for safe playground installation and maintenance practices.

In Europe, EN 1177 of the European Committee for Standardization specifies the requirements for surfaces used in playgrounds. For each material type and height of equipment it specifies a minimum depth of material required.8 EN 1176 covers playground equipment standards.9

Playscapes have a fraction of the number of child injuries compared to standard playgrounds with play structures. The most frequent injury to children on playgrounds is a fracture of the upper limb resulting from falls from climbing apparatus.10 Playscapes combat the issue of fall heights by using topography changes for children to climb and experience changes in height. Companies in Canada have made strides in reducing fall height by using topography as a main feature in their designs.


  1. ↑ playground Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  2. ↑ Robin C. Moore, Childhood's Domain: Play and Place in Child Development (Mig Communications, 1990, ISBN 0944661017).
  3. 3.0 3.1 "History of Playgrounds," City of Charlottesville. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Encyclopædia Britannica, "Playground," Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 I. Fjortoft and J. Sageie, “The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: Landscape Description and Analysis of a Natural Landscape,” Landscape and Urban Planning 48(1/2) (2000): 83-97.
  6. ↑ N. Wells, “At home with nature Effects of “Greenness” on Children's Cognitive Functioning,” Environment and Behaviour 32(6) (2000): 775-795.
  7. ↑ Standards: CPSC National Program for Playground Safety. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  8. ↑ EN 1177 - Impact Absorbing Playground Surfacing Safety Surfacing. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  9. ↑ EN1176 Playground Equipment Standard" The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  10. ↑ D. Fissel, G. Pattison, and A. Howard, “Severity of playground fractures: play equipment versus standing height falls,” Injury Prevention 11 (2005): 337-339.


  • Fissel, D., G. Pattison, and A. Howard. “Severity of playground fractures: play equipment versus standing height falls.” Injury Prevention 11 (2005): 337-339.
  • Fjortoft, I., and J. Sageie. “The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: Landscape Description and Analysis of a Natural Landscape.” Landscape and Urban Planning 48(1/2) (2000): 83-97.
  • Herrington, S., and K. Studtmann. “Landscape Interventions: New Directions for the Design of Children's Outdoor Play Environments.” Landscape and Urban Planning 42(2-4) (1998): 191-205.
  • Malone, K., and P. Tranter. “Children's Environmental Learning and the Use, Design and Management of School grounds.” Children, Youth and Environments 13(2) (2003).
  • Moore, Robin C. Childhood's Domain: Play and Place in Child Development. Mig Communications, 1990. ISBN 0944661017
  • Soderback, I., M. Soderstrom, and E. Schalander. “Horticultural therapy: the 'healing garden' and gardening in rehabilitation measures at Danderyd Hospital Rehabilitation Clinic, Sweden.” Pediatric Rehabilitation 7(4) (2004): 245-260.
  • Wells, N. “At home with nature Effects of “Greenness” on Children's Cognitive Functioning.” Environment and Behaviour 32(6) (2000): 775-795.

External links

All links retrieved March 29, 2019.

  • Backyard Swings and Playsets Consumer Affairs