Places for People - Assessing user needs - Children's play needs in housing areas

© Anne R. Beer, 1997

Designing for play in housing areas


Site planners and designers should always design new residential environments to stimulate play. In relation to housing, children are often the main users of the 'outdoors'. Any other environmental settings (schools, local shopping centres, parks, etc.) within which children are likely to play, should also be designed by paying special attention to children's needs.

Diversity in the environment in and around the home is one of the most important factors in the child's development. The designer's role is to create environmental settings within which children can play.


Spaces should be designed into housing layouts which stimulate imaginative play. They need not be specific play areas, but can be, for example, just incidental spaces which allow quiet peaceful enjoyment of 'being outside'.

Some argue that stimulating play is the role of the family and not the community. However, that is to forget the real circumstances of modern daily life. For instance, economic circumstances have so changed daily life that now in the UK half the work force comprises women - so they cannot be expected to be automatically at home with their children.



In ideal circumstances parents would have time to play with and stimulate their children - but reality is different in many families. For this reason the community needs to have an involvement in providing for play - and so site planners and designers, through their control of the design process, need to make the settings which children can use.

In particular, the present economic and social realities of too many of our social housing schemes (and other low income housing schemes as well) mean that the ideal circumstances for bringing up children cannot be relied upon (Social Trends in Britain).

Why plan for play

Standards of play provision

What is play?

Designing for play in housing areas

Where the child plays

Facilities to support play

Solutions - local planning for play

Involving the users


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Text and illustrations (unless stated otherwise) © Anne R. Beer, Map21 Ltd, 2001, all rights reserved. Terms of use: Any involved in education or training may copy the contents of these web pages with the proviso that they always make reference to the origial copyright.

© Anne Beer, 2000
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Map21 Ltd

Latest update 19 Dec 2003