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A Study Comparing Standard and Nature-based Play
A Master's in Landscape Architect Thesis by Abigail Fiala

A Study Comparing Standard and Nature-based Play

Abigail Fiala's research aimed to answer the question, "How do children play differently in nature-based playgrounds than in standard playgrounds?" She examined two different groups of children at local preschools near Kansas State University, aged 3-5. Behavioral observation and behavioral mapping were the primary methods for gathering data in this study.

In May of 2017, Abigail Fiala, from Kansas State University, published her Master of Landscape Architecture thesis titled "Nurture through nature: a comparative study between standard and nature-based play in outdoor preschool environments."

Her findings were similar to another study that was done by a preschool teacher in Chicago. Both studies focused on nature-based playgrounds in correlation to child development and both used the same methods of testing.

Fiala observed children playing on two different playgrounds, a nature playground and a traditional one, compiled the data and compared the two sets. What she found was that, "Setting 1, the designed nature playground, supported games with rules play because of the open spaces that allowed for running across the site uninterrupted. Setting 2 did not support games with rules play because there were no continuous, flat open spaces in which children could run freely."

"The main takeaway from my study, for me, was that design has a huge impact on the way children engage with a space," Fiala says. "It can be easy to specify playground equipment that fits within a budget and a site; it's another thing to pick it apart piece by piece and think, how will children use this?"

The conclusion of her 185-paged thesis reads, "If playgrounds are to enhance [child] development, a combination of nature and standard elements are to be included in the design."

Fiala states that if she could design her own playground it "would have landforms that work seamlessly with play equipment, access to natural areas and native plantings, water elements, tons of color and texture and be the kind of place that kids of all ages and even adults would love to play."

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August 20, 2019, 3:50 am PDT

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