“Children’s dreams shape the future, and one of the most important tools that shape children’s dreams is undoubtedly the toys and games they play.”
Children’s playgrounds are areas that allow children to play safely in urban spaces and contribute to their development by allowing them to socialize with others.
The emergence of public playgrounds dates back to the end of the 19th century. These areas, which emerged in a traditional style, generally allowed children’s physical activities and did not include any activities related to their imagination and exploration abilities (Woolley & Lowe, 2015). In such parks, game elements such as swings, slides, and seesaws were used most often. From the past to the present, the scope of children’s playgrounds has started to change with the change of perspective on the relationship between children, toys, and games. Realizing the contributions of toys and playing games, which were previously seen as a means of keeping children distracted and having fun, on the development of children has brought along quite effective changes in the diversification of game elements and the design of playgrounds. It is now known that toys and playgrounds, which were once seen only as a means of playing, not only support children in developing mental, cognitive, social, and motor skills but also play an active role in the formation of their personality and the development of their thinking and behavior in social life.
In the development process of children’s playgrounds, these areas have started to be considered within the scope of landscape architecture, and children’s playgrounds have gone one step beyond being just an area where play elements are placed. With the touch of architectural design, playgrounds have begun to be designed with different themes by including structural and plant landscape elements, incorporating the natural structure of the area, and ensuring integrity with all the elements around it. If we want to take this development process one step further, when it comes to child psychology and child development, one of the most important supports in the design of these fields will come from the professional disciplines of psychology and pedagogy. It is possible to find many resources on how to benefit from the studies in this field within the scope of solving children’s psychological problems or shaping their educational life. When it comes to the design of playgrounds and toys, which have a very important place in the development of children, unfortunately, it is seen that these studies are not sufficiently utilized. In this context, it would be useful to mention the multiple intelligence theory, which we frequently hear in child development, and how this theory can affect the design of playgrounds.
According to the theory of multiple intelligences developed by Gardner, all children are born with different types of intelligence at various levels; they may be more inclined to some types of intelligence, while they may not be inclined to some types of intelligence (Gardner, 2004).
These intelligence areas are as follows:
- Verbal – Linguistic intelligence
- Logical – Mathematical intelligence
- Visual – Spatial intelligence
- Musical – Rhythmic intelligence
- Bodily – Sensorimotor intelligence
- Interpersonal – Social intelligence
- Intrapersonal – Self smart intelligence
- Naturalist – Nature intelligence
This theory aims to strengthen and develop the potential of children by going beyond a single stereotyped education and training system, valuing the individual differences of each child, and with an approach appropriate to each different intelligence type. With similar reasoning, the development and evaluation of children’s play tools and fields, which have an active role in the development of children, within the scope of this theory will take us one step further.
In this context, within the scope of ‘multiple intelligence theory’, intelligence types, intelligence type characteristics, and learning styles are summarized in the table below. The table has been developed by adding the type of game setup to which they will be related to this table:
|Types of intelligence||Characteristics||Learning Style||Game Setup|
|Verbal Intelligence||Uses language actively.||Learns by talking and listening.||Games with letters and words where they can use their language skills.|
|Logical – Mathematical Intelligence||Establishes cause-effect relationships. Likes numbers.||Learns by classifying and abstracting with numbers.||Games where they can play with numbers, do calculations, observe cause and effect relationships.|
|Visual Intelligence||Likes daydreaming. Movies, lines, pictures attract their attention.||Learns through visualized presentations and daydreaming.||Plays where they can create something by painting, using colors, shapes, and objects.|
|Auditory/Musical Intelligence||Likes voices and rhythms.||Learns with music and rhythmic voices.||Plays where they can make music and where sounds are more effective.|
|Physical Intelligence||Likes explaining by use of their body and hands.||Learns by touching and physical activities.||Games in which they can be involved by using their bodies, such as theater and dance.|
|Social Intelligence||Likes making friends, talking, and empathizing.||Learns by socializing by collaborating with their friends.||Group games where they can collaborate with others.|
|Intrapersonal (Self Smart) Intelligence||Likes focusing on one issue, thinking and reasoning in detail.||Unlike social intelligence, likes to work and succeed on their own.||More individual games with focus and concentration.|
|Nature Intelligence||Interested in the environment. Plants and animals attract their attention. Likes to communicate with them.||Learns by observing and examining their environment.||Games that incorporate the natural features of the environment into the setup.|
The aim of the designs to be made based on the dimensions of multiple intelligences is to design games and playgrounds that can appeal to all children with different learning styles and to enable children to develop different game setups by using their imaginations more effectively. Designing game setups and playgrounds supported by toys that appeal to different intelligence levels by going one step beyond the playgrounds determined only for different age groups will enable children to enjoy the games they play more while also increasing their learning skills. Farland et al. (2006) exemplified some of the playground features and activity suggestions that support multiple intelligences in outdoor playgrounds as follows:
Painting: Activities such as painting, finger painting, drawing on walls, using footprints and handprints, making sculptures and models will develop physical, spatial, logical, intrapersonal, and social intelligence.
Music: Encouraging children to discover the rhythm and tone of the music by using instruments such as drums, bells or tambourines, putting together a music band, making them dance and sing, and songs which are integrated into the game tools will develop musical and social intelligence.
Giant Structures: Stacking blocks, giant repair, and construction equipment toys, game tools that will enable children to build things with Lego-like masses will improve spatial, logical, and physical intelligence, as well as the things they do together in cooperation.
Drama: Creating a place with clothes or accessories belonging to different occupational groups (for example, fireman’s hat, helmet, repair shop tools, etc.) and enabling them to develop game setups suitable for these occupations will improve their physical, social, intrapersonal, logical, visual, musical, nature, and verbal intelligence.
Science: The playground in nature is actually like an open-air laboratory. Providing tools with which they can plant seeds, study plants, and insects, observe the sky and animals will develop logical, visual, nature, and physical intelligence.
Books: Allowing them to take a break between the games and calm down by reading a book or encouraging conversation with word games, nursery rhymes, and stories, providing game tools where they can use letters and words will improve verbal and social intelligence.
Sensory: Sensory activities are activities that appeal to all intelligence types. For example, playing with materials that they can shape with their hands, such as a water table, sand, table, mud, will greatly improve their creativity and support all types of intelligence.
According to Shackell et al. (2008), it is important that successful playgrounds are well-positioned, built using natural elements, and designed as sustainable spaces that contain a variety of games, can include children with disabilities, allow children of different age groups to play together, and support their change and development. With an approach based on the theory of multiple intelligences, adding the phrase ‘these areas contain designs that support different types of intelligence’ to this comprehensive definition made for children’s playgrounds will take the development of these areas one step further.
Dr. Landscape Architect
Farland, L. and Adhikary, M. 2006. Bringing multiple intelligences outdoors. Child Care Quarterly 30(2):24-33
Gardner, H. 2004. Frames of Mind The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Basic Book : New York
Shackell, A., Butler, N., Doyle, P., Ball, D. 2008. Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces. ISBN: 978-1-84775-225-3
Woolley, H., Low, A., 2015. Exploring the Relationship between Design Approach and Play Value of Outdoor Play Spaces. Landscape Research, 38(1), 53-74.