Playscape is term used by landscape architects and designers who specialize in designing and building playspaces that look and feel like a natural environment.

For a playground to be considered a "playscape" the space should be as natural as possible, with as little man made components as possible. Using native plants, rolling hills, lots of trees; playscapes represent a natural place such as a forest. Playscapes are designed with the intent of bringing children and people back to nature. Playscapes offer a wide range of open-ended play options that allow children to be creative and use their imagination. Playscapes offer a wide range of developmental benefits to children, rehabilitation programs and all people in general.

Playscape Safety

Playscapes are designed to eliminate fall heights. Playscapes have rolling hills and fallen logs rather than a central play structure with monkey bars. Playscapes have much lower injury rates then standard playgrounds (Fjortoft and Sageie, 2000). By eliminating fall heights playscapes offer a safe alternative to play structures.

Playscapes have a fraction of the number of child injuries compared to standard playgrounds with play structures. The most frequent injury to children on playgrounds is a fracture of the upper limb resulting from falls from climbing apparatus's (Fissel, 2005). The second most common cause of injury to children on playgrounds is falls from slides (Fissel, 2005). Fall heights are the largest safety issue for most safety inspectors.

Playscapes combat the issue of fall heights by using topography changes for children to climb and experience changes in height. Companies in Canada have made strides in reducing fall height by using topography as a main feature in their designs. Topography changes allow designers to be creative when placing components in the playscape.

Developmental Benefits

Playscapes offer a wide range of benefits such as increasing physical activity, fine and gross motor skills & cognitive development. They are also used in horticultural therapy for rehabilitation of mental and/or physical ailment. They increase participation rates and decrease absenteeism, decrease bullying, decrease injury rates, increase focus and attention span and help with social skills in schools (Fjortoft 2000, Wells, 2000 and Malone, 2003). Playscape have shown to increase children's level of physical activity, and motor ability (Fjortoft and Sageie, 2000). Playscapes are found to be very beneficial in the growth and development of children both mentally and physically. Cognitive development, focus, attention span and social skills are all improved (Wells, 2000 and Malone, 2003).


Playscapes are not intimidating regardless of ability or fitness level. Playscapes have no central location, or prescribed area of play. They are open-ended spaces that entice children to use their imagination and creativity. Playscapes do not prescribe in an area that encourages a physical hierarchy thus, reducing bullying and competition based on physical strength and ability (Herrington and Studtmann 1998).

Playscapes are not limited to public parks and schools. Select hospitals in Sweden and North America have playscapes on their facility. Hospitals use playscapes for horticultural therapy, which has proven to increase emotional, cognitive, and motor improvements and increased social participation, quality of life and well-being (Soderback et al, 2004).

In 2007 a Playscape design by Groundwork UK won two awards at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Natural Playground

"Natural playgrounds" are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex interplays of natural, environmental objects in ways that challenge and fascinate children and teach them about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world while they play within it.

Play components may include earth shapes (sculptures), environmental art, indigenous vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, lichens, mosses), boulders or other rock structures, dirt and sand, natural fences (stone, willow, wooden), textured pathways, and natural water features.


  • Fissel, D., Pattison, G., and Howard, A. (2005). “Severity of playground fractures: play equipment versus standing height falls.” Injury Prevention. 11: 337-339.
  • Fjortoft, I., and Sageie, J. (2000). “The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: Landscape Description and Analysis of a Natural Landscape.” Landscape and Urban Planning. 48(1/2): 83-97.
  • Herrington, S., and Studtmann, K. (1998). “Landscape Interventions: New Directions for the Design of Children’s Outdoor Play Environments.” Landscape and Urban Planning. 42(2-4): 191-205.
  • Malone, K., and Tranter, P. (2003). “Children’s Environmental Learning and the Use, Design and Management of Schoolgrounds.” Children, Youth and Environments. 13(2).
  • Soderback, I., Soderstrom, M., and Schalander, E. (2004). “Horticultural therapy: the ‘healing garden’ and gardening in rehabilitation measures at Danderyd Hospital Rehabilitation Clinic, Sweden.” Pediatric Rehabilitation. 7(4): 245-260.
  • Wells, N. (2000). “At home with nature Effects of “Greenness” on Children’s Cognitive Functioning.” Environment and Behaviour. 32(6): 775-795.
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