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Book of the week: play is serious business

Designing for Play By Barbara E Hendricks Ashgate pound;45

Barbara Hendricks believes children's play is a serious business that, for the most part, is not taken seriously enough.

The authentic desire children have to play is largely ignored or marginalisednbsp;in public architecture and urban design. Most urban landscape spaces are "Slaps" (spaces left over after planning).

Hendricks believes that, alongside some good practice, there are many misconceptions surrounding the needs of children within the modern urban environment, and little coherent theory on the subject. For example, responses to educationists' concerns that the playground should be a tool for educational development can create predictable environments which are alienating to children.

The foreword implies that the book is aimed at design professionals rather than interested non-designers (teachers, for example). This is not the case. The style is attractively jargon-free, and the book will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the well-being of children. It is so readable that it was sneaked away by a number of non-designers in my household over the Easter weekend.

Designing for play may be a serious business. Reading about play in this book is fun, as it should be.

Mark Dudek is author of Kindergarten Architecture (SponRoutledge)

A longer version of this review appears in this week's TES Friday magazine

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