Designing Playful Pathways With Landscape Architects


Landscape architects are turning their attention to designing playful ways for trails to be utilized by families. Recent usage of trails and greenways has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With new guidance from the American Hiking Society on using trails safely during these times, it's a great time to explore how to transform an ordinary trail into a playful pathway, they can be a lot of fun for the entire family.

What Are Playful Pathways?

Despite this exhaustive list has a list of more than 64,000 trails in the United States, studies suggest only a small minority of children and families are actually using them. With the help of landscape architects, underutilized trails in Georgia and Florida can be activated by infusing playful activities for people of all ages and abilities.

Welcome to the Play Trail

The Play Trail concept is based on research found in Pathways for Play, a guidebook for designing playful trails. It contains research and design best practices for creating pockets of play along a trail.

One type of Play Trail uses manufactured playground equipment. The playground equipment is nature-themed and represents animals and their habitats. When children explore the trail, they discover fun play activities that teach them about the natural world.

What Are the Benefits of a Play Trail?

Exploring trails of any type is beneficial for children and families. Trails provide physical activity, a connection with the natural surroundings, and encourage positive social behavior. A Play Trail offers five additional benefits over a typical trail.

1. Spontaneous Play

On a trail, children are more likely to engage in spontaneous play. Spontaneous play happens when children play together without being directed by adults. This is a crucial part of childhood development.

Trails give children plenty of room to move and explore. When children are outdoors, they are more likely to experience higher levels of physical activity.

2. Playful Movement

Children experience significant cognitive benefits when they are moving playfully. They learn how to move multiple parts of their body at the same time. Children develop a greater sense of balance and movement in relation to objects around them.

3. Independent Mobility

As children grow older, they crave independence. They look for places to explore and new peer groups for interaction. A playful pathway gives children an opportunity to experience this important developmental milestone in a fun and safe way.

4. Experience Nature

Playful pathways offer children opportunities to experience nature in a unique way. Since natural play spaces are in short supply, playful pathways are a great way to create play areas where children can discover the wonders of nature.

5. Encouraging Multigenerational Play

There is a lot of research about adults using trails. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much study into how children use trails. But we know children are always seeking ways to engage with their parents.

Since adults have an affinity for trails, they are likely to explore pathways with children. When you create a Play Trail, you combine experiences both children and adults enjoy.

Connect Your Community With Trails

Trail-based play and activity is a growing trend across America. With the vast trail networks in Georgia and Florida, there is a huge opportunity for landscape architects to transform underutilized trails into fun, playful pathways. Contact us if you’re ready to plan a path to more fun and physical activity for everyone.