Containing children: some lessons on planning for play from New York City

This paper relates the history of playground provision in New York to changing conceptions of childhood, and specifically to a felt need to ’contain’ children in order to keep them off the streets, safe from traffic and unsavoury influences – a trend that children have tended to resist. Playgrounds most often substitute a narrow range of physical activity for the spontaneous play in diverse environments that children more naturally crave. Not only do play- grounds fail to satisfy the complexity of children’s developmental needs, they also tend to separate children from the daily life of their communities – exposure to which is fundamental to the development of civil society. What is needed, argues the author, is not more segregated playgrounds, but a greater attempt to make neighbourhoods safe and welcoming for children, responding to their own prefer- ences for free play close to home.

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Title:  Containing children: some lessons on planning for play from New York City

Author(s): Roger Hart

Publication Date: 2003

Publisher: Environment and Urbanization