Grounds to grow
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Current research reveals a decline in children’s health in the U.S. This thesis explores the effects of the built environment, free play and nature on children’s health and a landscape architects role through public play space design. The design gap exists in understanding this complex user group and design elements that can directly affect health. A review of the latest data on the decline and the history of free play, play spaces, and play equipment is conducted. Three case studies of new, community-built play spaces are presented using site inventories, participant observations, parent/guardian interviews, and photo interviews with children. Design criteria are written to help bridge the gap, including elements that encourage free play in nature to benefit health. Collaborating with developmental health experts can additionally assist landscape architects in strengthening public play space design and serendipitously improving children’s health.