Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Frontispiece, Dedication, Quote

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is a companion volume, in that it follows and expands my initial American Playgrounds: Revitalizing Community Space (2005). It is a pleasure to work again with my earlier publisher, University Press of New England. Their team, including editor-in-chief Phyllis Deutsch and director Michael...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-9

Forget play. Dismiss, for a moment, any belief that play is valuable for children. Ignore any of the places where it could occur. Put old notions aside so that we can take a fresh look at the American playground and use bold innovative strategies to improve it....

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1. The Problem

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pp. 10-31

We live in uncertain times, characterized by pressures to prepare our children for undefined future challenges. We are not the first generation to attempt to ready children for terrifyingly unknown events. In 1962, toy and playground manufacturer Creative Playthings published a catalog whose...

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2. Risk and Independence

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pp. 32-55

Risk, failure, and mastery are a tight trio. They are interconnected. This chapter concentrates on the value of risk taking for child development. It considers projects that are exemplary for encouraging those traits. The following chapter continues the theme by examining sites that are particularly...

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3. Failing and Succeeding

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pp. 56-81

Failure and mastery, both of which are discouraged in most American playgrounds, are the by-products of taking risks and pursuing activities for which there is no known outcome. In risk-free situations, children cannot demonstrate competence because they can do only what they already know...

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4. Executive Function

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pp. 82-103

Many contemporary scientific investigations of children’s neurocognitive development focus on something called “executive function” (EF). Tied to the neural circuitry of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, EF is not a single action, nor does it have a sole identifying characteristic.¹ It is a fluid...

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5. Friendship

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pp. 104-121

Friendships seem like such an obvious need. Kids require buddies for companionship, for exchanging fears and dreams, for learning to share and compromise, and for challenging each other physically and creatively. Friendships promote independence, fantasy play, and even understanding...

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6. Nature and Exploration

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pp. 122-141

“Nature” and “exploration” seem to be a well-matched pair that highlight two of the strongest themes in contemporary design for play. “Natural playgrounds” have become a rallying cry, a backlash against manufactured equipment, in the United States and parts of Western Europe. Proponents...

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7. Paths

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pp. 142-153

Now we need to confidently pursue new paths and policies in order to create vibrant areas equal to or even better than the ones we have already viewed. Let’s think less about “playground” and more about a generalized “playscape” or even “play site,” spaces that merge with their surroundings...

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Conclusion. Paradigms

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pp. 154-170

We need to rethink our approach to outdoor play spaces in order to revitalize them. In addition to insisting that play be child-initiated and child-directed, as play workers do, we need to demand sites that permit cautious risk taking, allow...

Notes

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pp. 171-190

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 191-202

Index

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pp. 203-208

Illustrations

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