The Effects of Encapsulation on Preschool Children's Imaginative Play

Lynn A. Barnett, William P. Kruidenier

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Recent research has shown that young children's playful behavior is related to normal cognitive development and this investigation was undertaken to illustrate the need for the design of playgrounds which facilitate play, thus enhancing cognitive growth. Previous findings have shown that, in a controlled laboratory setting, enclosed spaces promote imaginative play. This study presents a replication and extension of this earlier work to more naturalistic outdoor playground environments. Slides and swings were chosen for observation across six existing play areas representing three degrees of encapsulation (enclosure), from low to high. Preschool children were observed on each of the play structures and their play was partitioned into various categories of imaginative play. Results confirmed the hypothesis that as the degree of encapsulation increased, corresponding increases in imaginative play could be realiably noted. The nonlinearity of the effects of encapsulation were discussed as they produced different trends as a function of the type of imaginative play observed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-336
JournalJournal of Leisure Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 1981


  • Playground
  • encapsulation
  • child development
  • children's play
  • playground design


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