Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning


Keith M Christensen


Concern for child wellness has led play professionals to explore natural playscapes as a means to enhance free play and consequently child development. For preschool-aged children, dramatic play is a particularly valuable free play that advances cognitive skills, social skills, and emotional intelligence. This study compared thedramatic play affordances of natural and manufactured outdoor play settings to determine which afford the most dramatic play for preschool-aged children. Twenty-four 3- to 5- year-olds were observed during daily playtime on a “natural playground” and an equipment-based “manufactured playground.” Behavior mapping identified settings that afforded the most solitary dramatic, sociodramatic, and complex sociodramatic play. The study suggests that environments designed with child-scale constructive play props, a sense of enclosure, and natural surroundings are more likely to support complex dramatic play. Intentional inclusion of these design elements may afford greater dramatic play in the preschool play yard.