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New-Age Playgrounds Rule, as Long as the Kids Are in Charge

City planners are now designing new-age public parks with trained "play workers" who guide children through a maze of water, ramps and sand to encourage creativity. Architect David Rockwell, who has created adult play spaces at glamorous Manhattan restaurants like Nobu and the flashy Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut, is working with New York City to design a public playground where children can engage in fantasy and learning.  Rockwell and the city have worked with child development experts to plan the park, and he has donated $2 million of his money to hire experienced play workers to help children through zones of sand and water, sloping ramps and construction gadgets.

 Child psychologists agree the principles and equipment in these new-age playgrounds can be wonderful tools for creativity and learning -- as long as the kids are in charge. Young children learn about the world through their senses, and Pratola believes the sand and water available to children in these new-age parks teach them about containment, flow, volume, gravity, building and structure.  Like those in Europe, Rockwell's park project is based on solid research that confirms play is critical to learning.

"The curriculum development for kids aged 3 to 8 is totally based on these principles and materials to learn spatial ability and how to count," said Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, director of the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia University's Teachers College.  New-age playgrounds help parents, too.   "They are modeling creativity," said Brooks-Gunn, who would like to see partnership possibilities between Rockwell's play worker training programs and the Columbia research center.

This article appeared in the January 11, 2007 edition of the ABC





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