Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning


Keith Christensen


Lisa Boyce


Jake Powell


Unstructured play is crucial for children’s development. Dramatic play is play involving a transformation of objects, actions, or self-identity. During dramatic play, children may operate at more advanced cognitive levels than they do in non-dramatic play, thereby furthering their cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Interactions among children with and without disabilities are valuable opportunities to further a children’s development.

This study compared dramatic play behaviors among first and second grade children with and without disabilities to determine which play settings encouraged children to engage in quality dramatic play. Eighty-nine six-to-eight-year-olds were observed during lunch recess daily on an inclusive playground. Through behavior mapping of the children’s play behaviors, specific settings were identified that afforded the most dramatic play.

The study suggests that a well-designed inclusive playground reduces barriers for children with disabilities, creating an environment where children with disabilities can engage in similar play behaviors with their typically developing peers. Settings with characteristics of loose parts, stage-like areas, natural props, enclosed areas, slightly themed settings, and open-ended settings offered children opportunities for dramatic play. Specifically, Zip Slide, the Spiral Slide, Sensory Wave Rock N Raft, Open Grassy Hill, and the Nature Play Areas encouraged the most dramatic play. Therefore, a well-designed inclusive playground that includes settings designed with these characteristics may encourage children with and without disabilities in the first and second grades to engage in peer interactions and dramatic play to further their development.