Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Play and Playground Resources: Recent Finds

As the conversation around play in children’s lives expands and gets livelier in schools, in the media, and in museums, new resources and approaches to play appearing on the play landscape are worth noting. I am familiar with and appreciate resources like the American Journal of Play, U.S.Play Coalition, PlayCore, and KaBOOM! among others.

And I’m always on the look out for more play-related resources that inform, extend, and challenge my understanding of play. Of particular interest are resources that consolidate sources of information; relate play to broader issues like community engagement, well being, and learning; look at play across the lifespan or cross-culturally; incorporate international perspectives; connect theory, research, and practice; and contribute to a visual vocabulary for play environments

With any resource, familiar or new, I am interested in recent research, in better understanding how play and learning connect, and in promising strategies for supporting and extending a wider range of play in museums. Finally I simply enjoy the pleasure of play well-explained.

Even as I am pleased to keep encountering new resources, I am also surprised I have never heard of them before. Below are several resources I have come across recently. 

AnjiPlay, an internationally-recognized early childhood play curriculum developed by Chinese educator Cheng Xueqin, has been tested over the past 15 years in 130 public kindergartens in Anji County (China) serving more than 14,000 children from ages 3 to 6. A play curriculum in Chinese preschools may not seem to translate readily to museums. When described as “sophisticated practices, site-specific environments, unique materials and integrated technology,” however, AnjiPlay does seem to have something in common with museum environments for children. In fact, many of the guiding principles of AnjiPlay, love, risk, joy, engagement, and reflection could be found in a list of values for many children’s museums.

Play & Playground Encyclopedia is where you will find a Child’s Outdoor Bill of Rights; books like American Playgrounds, Revitalizing Community Space; descriptions of types of play, toys, and play environments (including children’s museums); and profiles of play advocates like Lady Allen of Hurtwood. The Encyclopedia is a collection of over 600 listings that relate to issues around children’s play, playgrounds, health and safety, including the people, organizations, and companies that contribute to children’s play and well being. The listings include links and citations to make P&P a veritable portal to the world of play.

Voice of Play is an initiative of IPEMA (International Play Equipment Manufacturers’ Association) that promotes the benefits of children’s play by providing information and resources to encourage the quality and quantity of children’s play and the use of playgrounds. Its coverage of the benefits of play, playground safety, the science of play, and its checklist for access are most relevant and helpful to museums. Results of its 2017 Survey on Play provide information on parents’ attitudes towards play behavior and frequency and is also a resource for building public awareness about play in communities and with stakeholders.

• Dezeen's Pinterest board on playgrounds From 2013 – 2016, Paige Johnson posted about interesting and varied play environments on Playscapes, from playgrounds on New Yorker covers to futuristic playgrounds of the past. (http://www.play-scapes.com) Without her posts, finding play environments that reflect an experimental mindset about children’s play environments and that break the mold in their design is sporadic. While not everything I could wish for on children’s play environments, Dezeen’s Pinterest board fills a noticeable void and will hopefully grow in the range and variety of what it highlights by artists, exhibit designers, architects, and landscape architects.

The Association for the Study of Play (TASP) The broad focus of this academically-oriented organization of play scholars reflects its interest in interdisciplinary research and theory construction related to play throughout the world. Mirroring the multi-disciplinary nature of play itself, TASP brings together perspectives on play from an impressively broad range of areas including anthropology, education, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, recreation and leisure studies, history, folklore, dance, communication, kinesiology, philosophy, and musicology. The Association’s annual conference and its publications (a newsletter, 3 issues of the International Journal of Play, and an annual volume of Play & Culture Studies) focus on sharing and disseminating information on the study of play.

More to add to the list? What resources on play and play environments would you like to share? In what ways are they valuable to you?


  1. Thank you for bringing these resources to our attention. I am especially intrigued by AnjiPlay. What a fascinating story, and as Minnesota allocates more money for PreK programs, I hope our leaders take note.
    Thanks Jeanne.

  2. Mary, I agree that it is heartening to see more varied approaches to play. Madison (WI) has an AnjiPlay program (http://www.onecityearlylearning.org/one-city-early-learning-centers-of-madison-wi-named-first-u-s-pilot-site-outside-of-china-to-implement-revolutionary-new-education-approach/). I think Chicago Children's Museum might be exploring AnjiPlay. Yes, lots is happening and more could be quite soon.