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Playgrounds

Although children have always played in open spaces in city settings and around schools, the early history of playgrounds is obscure. Formal playgrounds, however, seem to be an invention of the first half of the nineteenth century. The American educational reformer Henry Barnard (1811–1900) described a “Play ground” for a primary school in his 1848 treatise “School Architecture.” It was fenced in and included a play area for block construction, and a set of rotary swings and ropes for jumping games. Barnard emphasized that the play area was under the supervision of a teacher—representing one of the earlier notions of play being regulated by adults.

Following the Civil War, playgrounds began to appear in urban areas on the East Coast of the United States. A playground ...

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