Playscapes as a Design Perspective on Children’s Physical Play and Wellbeing Boudewijn Boon Pieter Jan Stappers Abstract TU Delft, Faculty of Industrial TU Delft, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Design Engineering Childhood cancer can significantly impact children’s wellbeing and physical development. We will examine whether stimulating physical play can help children in both these domains. The design perspective of ‘playscapes’, in particular in a Gibsonian frame, offers possibilities in pursuing the intended experiential and clinical outcomes. Questions concerning the design of playscapes are raised and the potential relevance of this approach beyond the context of pediatric oncology and physical development is discussed. Landbergstraat 15 Landbergstraat 15 2628 CE Delft 2628 CE Delft The Netherlands The Netherlands [email protected] [email protected] Marco Rozendaal TU Delft, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Landbergstraat 15 2628 CE Delft The Netherlands m.c.r[email protected] Author Keywords Spatial interaction; physical activity; child development; design for healthcare ACM Classification Keywords H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI): User Interfaces – User-centered design Introduction This paper positions playscapes as a design perspective on children’s physical play and wellbeing. It does so in the context of pediatric oncology but its relevance extends to pediatric care and children’s play in general. We frame our perspective guided by the concept of ‘Development-Oriented Care’ (DOC) as developed in collaboration with the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology in the Netherlands. This integrative form of care concentrates on children with cancer and their families as a whole, aiming to foster the normal development of children, in spite of their lifethreatening illness and the invasive treatment they have to undergo. Central to DOC is that a holistic perspective is taken on wellbeing and development: cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual and physical aspects are all taken into account. Childhood cancer significantly impacts the child and family’s way of life. Life is no longer safe, secure and certain as routines, roles and relationships get disrupted. Furthermore, the course of life of survivors is often hampered. Children and their families thus face challenges in the present as well as in the future. Accordingly, wellbeing is here viewed as life as it is experienced in the present (i.e. wellbeing) and as it develops toward adulthood (i.e. wellbecoming), as described by Ben-Arieh et al. . Physical Development and Physical Play In this research we address wellbecoming mainly in terms of physical development, as it is a developmental domain that can be significantly impacted by childhood cancer . Physical development is a process of continuous change in the human body covering our entire lifespan. The most notable changes during childhood (0 to 18 years old) occur in body length and weight. Next to the anatomical level, we can further distinguish changes in physical fitness and motor skills, both of which progress significantly during childhood. Current ways of addressing the physical development of children with cancer generally involve exercise interventions provided by physiotherapists [e.g. 3]. As we aim to address both physical development and wellbeing of children with cancer, a more holistic approach is required. We suggest that a focus on ‘play’ is an interesting way forward, because, next to its role in child development, it also conduces to the child’s experiential wellbeing. Play is an intrinsically motivated activity, having no purpose apart from itself. In Csikszentmihalyi’s words: play is autotelic and it is characterized, like other ‘flow experiences’, by the complete absorption of a person in the present moment . Furthermore, play plays a significant role in child development ; i.e. it can have beneficial consequences across a person’s lifespan . Dealing specifically with the physical development of children, certain play forms are of particular interest to us. We describe these as falling under the umbrella of physical play. Examples of physical play are exercise play and rough-and-tumble play , but also manipulative play (sometimes called ‘object play’), which plays a role in motor development . Based upon the above we hypothesize that physical play can play a significant role in conducing to the wellbeing and physical development of children with cancer. Related work on physical play in the field of humancomputer interaction mainly responds to the problem of obesity. From findings in literature on design for physical play, we distinguish between three interaction paradigms: screen-based, tangible, and spatial interaction. In screen-based interaction, interaction is centered on graphical user interfaces (e.g. fixed desktop, mobile phone), sometimes making use of a controller and game station (e.g. Nintendo Wii). ‘Exergames’  often fall within this category. These are games that require a certain level of exertion by the player. Tangible interaction is centered on tangible user interfaces where digital information and physical objects are coupled. Examples within this category are enhanced traditional games , enhanced sports activities , and open-ended play objects . Finally, spatial interaction is interaction with or in an environment. Examples in this category are interactive playgrounds  and ambient intelligent games . Next we present ‘playscapes’ as a design perspective on children’s physical play, covering both spatial and tangible interaction. Playscapes as a Design Perspective In 1992, Frost coined the term ‘playscapes’, using it for describing different play environments . Key to our conception of playscapes is that they are such relative to the actor perceiving it, in this case, the child. Thus, playscapes hint at a Gibsonian view of affordances on play. The child directly perceives the possibilities for action in the playscape. To illustrate, a child might see a couch as a possibility for play (e.g. using it as a trampoline) whereas an adult is more likely to perceive it as a possibility to sit down and relax. On a spatial level, a natural environment can offer children many possibilities for play and hence be engaged with as a ‘natural playscape’ . It is suggested here that the perspective of playscapes, as we conceive it, can account for multiple qualities. First, it allows taking into account the spatial quality of play beyond the boundaries of a dedicated play area; more dispersed playscapes can be imagined, for example, throughout a hospital building. This is distinct from other approaches to spatial interaction [e.g. 10, 14]. Second, a playscape is a landscape to move through, making it particularly useful for stimulating physical play. Exploring and playing in a playscape implies physical activity, the use of gross motor skills, and the use of perceptual motor skills such as spatial and directional awareness. Illustrative are natural playscapes, which have been shown to promote physical activity and motor skills . Third, a playscape can offer a high degree of open-endedness, not only in the separate elements but also in their composition. This allows for a wide diversity of play narratives for children to perform throughout the playscape. This dynamism can lead to sustained engagement by the children. Their personal appropriation of the environment can lead to a sense of ownership. Finally, a playscape, or a particular part of it, can offer a sense of ‘placeness’, described by Talbot and Frost as “a degree of containment that serves to separate off the rest of the world” [13:229]. A simple rug with some objects on it can already create this effect for younger children; when they grow older self-constructed places, such as tree and bush houses, might serve a similar purpose. Although a sense of placeness does not directly contribute to physical play, it can help a child grow attached to a playscape potentially resulting in sustained engagement with it. Particular to our approach to playscapes is the intention underlying the design. In this research the intention is reflected in the goal of stimulating physical play and the underlying aim to promote children’s wellbeing and physical development. We imagine that playscapes can foster other domains of development as well (e.g. social and emotional development by promoting social interaction), and that future research might result in interesting synergies. Figure 1 illustrates the intention that designers might have and the playscape in which the behavior and experience is intended to emerge. direction for designing for children’s physical play, and ii) whether the elicited physical play fosters wellbeing and physical development. Designer’s intent (emergence of behavior, experience, motivation) Playscape (People, things, space, time) Figure 1. A playscape designed for certain intended outcomes to emerge out of the interactions between multiple actors and objects through space and time (adapted from ). In the context of pediatric oncology and DOC, the clinical setting demands that physiotherapists and other specialists inform the designer’s intent. As Figure 1 suggests, however, designing a playscape and achieving the intended outcome is not a controllable process. The interaction between multiple actors and objects within a playscape results in a complexity that makes it hard to predict particular behavioral outcomes; rather behavioral and experiential patterns emerge from multiple interactions. Playscapes and childhood cancer Our design goal is to develop interventions in the hospital environment that stimulate physical play and, as a result, conduce to the wellbeing and physical development of children with cancer. Our research goals are i) examining whether playscapes as a design perspective is a fruitful Knowledge required for the design goal, considering playscapes in a Gibsonian frame, entails information about the environment, the actors and their functional relationship, i.e. the affordances. In the environment, what space is available for a playscape? What elements are already present? Specific to the hospital context, what standards of hygiene apply? Among the actors we can distinguish between children with cancer and others potentially moving through the playscape. What are the children’s particular needs and wishes? What are their mental and physical abilities? Which other actors might be present? Will the presence of doctors or therapists disrupt the play experience? And which role can or should the child’s family play? Answering these questions contributes to the design and building of playscapes that conduce to the wellbeing and physical development of children with cancer. We envision that such playscapes can enhance child physiotherapy and revalidation by integrating exercises more into the daily lives of hospitalized children through physical play. The value and applicability of playscapes as a design perspective might extend well beyond the hospital environment, providing new ways of looking at, for example, schoolyards or urban environments. Furthermore, by taking into account other domains of development and types of play, playscapes can potentially offer a holistic approach to children’s development and wellbeing. Acknowledgements The work presented in this paper is part of the project "Meedoen=Groeien!". This research is a collaboration among the Dutch Rehabilitation Fund, the Princess Máxima Center of Pediatric Oncology, and Delft University of Technology. The Dutch Friends Lottery finances this project. References  Bekker, T., Sturm, J., and Eggen, B. Designing playful interactions for social interaction and physical play. 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