Keeping Play Novel & Complex

Contributed by JC Boushh

A child’s physical environment has the ability to shape the structure of the brain and form vital neural connections that lead to increased brain functions, and in contrast so do children’s play environments. As children become more exposed to the fast paced technological lifestyle of video games, they crave novel and complex play environments that challenge and engage them beyond what they can experience in the two dimensional world of media play. Properly designed playground environments go beyond just traditional playground equipment, but instead should allow children numerous choices for play. Playground game markings attracts children to play by allowing them to experience play three-dimensionally, physically, and socially, and keeps them engaged in play by allowing their play environment to be novel and complex. Child development research shows us that novelty attracts children’s attention to play, and complexity sustains children’s attention during play.

Numerous and varied playground game markings affects children not only in the context of providing them with rich and engaging play episodes, but also directly affects children’s brain development on a neurological level, probably not envisioned by their original creators. The novelty of playground games is that “novel occurrences and novel objects introduced into the play environment present information for children to learn while doing. This information is used to change how children think and how they actually play” (Schappet, Malkusak, and Bruya, 2003). This play environment adds a new dimension to the playground. The all too common hardscaped fixed play environment offers little chance of continuous novelty and complexity, were as game markings offers continuous play that changes and evolves as the children create new and varied games.

“Researchers have discovered that play is related to greater creativity and imagination and even to higher reading levels and IQ scores. Based on the research evidence, a new equation is in order: PLAY = LEARNING” (Hirsch-Pasek & Golinkioff, 2003). Play is the catalyst for the human brain, and the key to healthy brain development in children. Playgrounds with novel and complex games are examples of play environment that keeps the brain interested in learning through play.