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The Environment Of Play eBook


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The Environment Of Play eBook

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The Environment Of Play eBook

An ideal guide for, park managers and designers of play areas for children, this comprehensive ebook is packed with ideas and images to help you understand and create the ideal play area to nurture little minds.

children playing on swingThe Environment of Play

2nd Edition by John Mason

The Environment of Play eBook course online. Full of inspiring colour images of playgrounds around the world, this book is ideal for designers, park managers, schools and parents! Play is the most important and effective method of learning for adults as well as children. It can be active or passive, planned or spontaneous.

This Ebook is also ideal for you if you are a Counsellor or Psychologist working with children, or wanting to work with children, because you will learn about the relationship between PLAY and the ENVIRONMENT., an important aspect of growing up. 


The environment is one of the two most important influences upon a person. We become the people we are, primarily through the influences of: 

1. Our biological/chemical (or genetic) make-up. 
2. Our surroundings or ENVIRONMENT. 

This book is about relationships between PLAY and the ENVIRONMENT. 



1. Where Do They Play
2. Planning for Play
3. Types of Playgrounds
4. Designing a Playground
5. Further Design Considerations
6. Environmental Play


7. How To Grow Plants Successfully
8. Trees and Shrubs for Playgrounds
9. Turf
10. How To Grow Your Own Produce
11. Using What You Grow


12. Landscaping a School Ground
13. Backyards & Gardens for Children
14. Adventure Playgrounds
15. Children's Farms
16. Community Gardens
17. The Design of Environmental Trails
18. Park Interpretation
19. Environmental Activities
20. Fun and Fitness Trails
21. Skateboard Facilities
22. Outdoor Multi-Purpose Courts
23. Bicycle Facilities
24. Motorised Vehicle Parks
25. Facilities for People with Disabilities


26. Case Studies


A. Play Structures-Design Considerations
B. Ropes
C. A Guide to Mound Making
D. Gradients and Dimensions for Sporting Facilities
E. Community Participation
F. Contacts
G. Bibliography



This refers to how people perceive the playground in its appearance. Does it look neat, colourful, obscure, gaudy, natural, attractive or repulsive?
It is important to realise that different people have different aesthetic perceptions. Children often disagree with adults in their aesthetic preferences. Children tend to be attracted to a messy appearance and to bright colours whereas adults are very often repulsed by these same things. This leads to a conflict. The children are the ones using the playground so it can be argued that the playground should reflect their aesthetic preferences. On the other hand, the playground often borders on the adult world and there is no escaping the imposition of the aesthetics to the outside. The adults must have some rights too. Often adults use their power over children too much, and over-impose their aesthetic standards on the children.

Aesthetic considerations might include:

+ Unity - this is achieved by grouping or arranging in such a way that individual components have a sense of oneness.
+ Balance - this refers to symmetrical or asymmetrical balance.
+ Proportion - this refers to sizing or scaling of components in relation to each other and to the total landscape.
+ Harmony - this refers to the way all of the parts of the design fit together.
+ Contrast - this is the opposite of harmony and should not be overdone. Occasional contrast adds interest and creates a more alive atmosphere.

Achieving appropriate aesthetic effects will create an atmosphere which will encourage certain types of activity and discourage others. In this way, aesthetics has a definite relationship with function.

Social Acceptance

There can often be conflict between what is socially acceptable and what is functional. It might be functional for children to build cubby houses in a playground, but not socially accepted in that community. It might be functional to pay for a playground development by billboard advertising, but it might not be socially accepted.

Financial Criteria

Everything which is planned for in a playground development must fall within certain financial limits. You cannot build what you do not have the money to pay for. Consider both the initial and ongoing costs:
1) Initial Costs - cost of design and construction.
2) Ongoing Costs - cost of maintenance and perhaps employment of play leaders (or supervisors, etc).
These criteria (and others) should be considered relative to the components or elements of the design. The resulting arrangement becomes your playground design.

Creating Effects

+ Close mowing tends to make an area seem larger.
+ A smooth boundary will make an area seem larger.
+ Shadows or openings at one side of an area will make it seem wider.
+ Looking downhill makes a distance seem longer.
+ Looking uphill makes a distance seem shorter.
+ Too much repetition and harmony is monotonous.
+ Too much contrast is chaotic.
+ Spaces which are too small can be oppressive.
+ Large spaces are empty and hollow unless there are a large number of people in those spaces.
+ Long spaces (in large scale public landscapes) can be overdone, becoming psychologically exhausting.
+ To achieve a harmony in space in enclosed areas - the ratio of building height to space width should be no more than 1 :4.
+ Introduced landforms i.e. reshaping of land, should blend in with existing topography.
+ Coarse textures decrease the apparent size of spaces.
+ Fine textures will make small spaces look bigger.
+ Flowing curved lines are passive, soft and pleasant.
+ Geometric lines and shapes are solid, strong and formal.
+ Sharp, straight, irregular lines create an active, vigorous feeling in a garden.
+ A garden can be made to appear larger by making trees and other features from adjoining properties appear to be part of the garden itself.

About the Author:

John L. Mason Dip.Hort.Sc., Sup'n Cert., FIOH, FPLA, MAIH, MACHPER, MASA

Mr Mason has had over 35 years experience in the fields of Horticulture, Recreation, Education and Journalism. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner. John has held positions ranging from Director of Parks and Recreation (City of Essendon) to magazine editor.

John is a well respected member of many professional associations, and author of over thirty five books and of over two thousand magazine articles. Even today, John continues to write books for various publishers including Simon and Shuster, and Landlinks Press (CSIRO Publishing). 

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