Though a significant portion of the conversation around “play provision” focuses on the quality and availability of community playgrounds, the majority of children’s play occurs in transitional spaces: sidewalks and other spaces not designed for children but used by children daily. This Perspective from the Field briefly reviews the late 19th century roots of the American playground and argues that though a focus on playground provision may draw attention to the importance of safe play spaces, a focus on playgrounds alone is limiting. Given playgrounds’ historical rootings, the omnipresent KFC (Kit, Fence and Carpet) playground begins to seem a bit outdated – steamships in places where we now need kayaks in order to navigate complex, interconnected waterways. Professionals in the world of “play provision” would do better to focus our energies on safe walking paths to school rather than solely on the development of play spaces. If adults who make planning decisions begin to see children’s play as dispersed and omnipresent and allow children to develop a form of territoriality, appropriation, and personalization of space through mobility and autonomous play in public and semipublic places, the benefits could be significant on a mega-scale of community change.

Author Biography

Megan Dickerson is an “experience designer” who partners with individuals and groups to create immersive, intergenerational play spaces that leave lasting impressions on communities. From 2003 to 2013 at Boston Children’s Museum, Megan's user-centered designs included: Boston's Longest Dinner Table, a three-month community participation project focused on family dinner; GoKids in Boston Neighborhoods, a two-year health and nutrition project co-designed with Boston Housing Authority family development tenants; and numerous, playful interventions on Friday dollar nights, from projecting short films on the Museum's iconic milk bottle to leading families through spy-style alternative reality games. Through play(space), Megan’s umbrella for her independent curatorial projects, she is known for public art projects such as the Bumpkin Island Art Encampment, a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Willy Wonka in Smellovision, a partnership with the City of Somerville. Megan recently moved to San Diego to break new ground as Manager of Exhibition Development at the New Children’s Museum, an innovative space in which each exhibit is a one-of-a-kind work of art by a contemporary artist. Megan holds a BA in History and Museum Studies from UCLA and is a Masters candidate in the Play and Playwork program at the University of Gloucestershire.