Objective Children have the innate ability to play almost anywhere. This study delves into how children creatively adapt to various urban outdoor play spaces in the high-density areas of Beijing.
Methods Using the lens of landscape sociology, the research conducted a case study in the Shichahai area, employing data collection methods such as interviews, photo-voice, and behavior mappings to collect data about children’s daily use of outdoor environments.
Results Based on the field research data, children's frequently used outdoor spaces can be classified into three types which are constructed, flexible and found spaces. Multiple lines of evidence point to the fact that constructed playgrounds with fixed equipment, though often criticized for constraining older children’s play opportunities, provide a structured and secure environment. However, safety concerns arise when children utilize adult exercise equipment inappropriately. These playgrounds are typically located in gated residential areas or central urban parks. Conversely, parks often feature rubber carpet playgrounds that younger children favor. Flexible spaces, such as squares and accessible green spaces, serve a wide age range due to their open design, accommodating highly physical activities like running, jumping, and cycling. Nevertheless, ensuring conflict-free access for children presents a challenge. Found spaces, while not originally intended for children, are frequently utilized despite potential safety risks, particularly in areas like car parking lots and vehicle access pavements.
Conclusion Based on the research results, several recommendations are proposed. These suggestions aim to help urban areas cater to the diverse play needs of children, promote physical activity, support cognitive development, and create a safer and more engaging outdoor environment for all residents.