The Truth Behind the Jungle Gym: A Look at Outdoor Playground Use and the Conversations Surrounding Those Spaces

Open Access
Hansen, Andrea Christine
Area of Honors:
Childhood and Early Adolescent Education
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Daniel K Thompson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Carla Zembal Saul, Honors Advisor
  • Playground
Children at play is a fascinating form of interaction to observe. Their imaginations and ability to manipulate objects to fit their needs is an incredible phenomenon that leaves an onlooker with many lingering questions. “What are they thinking? How did they decide which slide would be the enemy’s castle?” In addition, children’s experiences on outdoor playgrounds provide rich opportunities for a vast list of benefits. These benefits are more or less instigated by the design of the playground; however, the popularity of the playground among children requires adults to fully understand children’s preferences of a place space and which structures and objects will cater to their wants and needs. This inquiry relied heavily on observations to answer these questions in an attempt to gain insight about the fragmented line of communication between the adults’ presumptions and the child’s actual desires of a playground space. Furthermore, this study looked at the interactions that were harvested by these outdoor play spaces, thus further expanding upon the use of the playground’s environment. At the conclusion of the research, it became apparent that there are particular structures that children find more appealing. Their imaginations lead them to manipulate any and all types of equipment on a playground; however, structures which are physically able to be moved (whether parts or the entire structure itself) appeared to have the most popularity among children. In addition, the children were even further interested when there were other children present. This allowed them to expand on one another’s ideas and further immerse themselves in the imaginative play on the playground.