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Trees, Grass Foster Children's Play And Encourage Adults To Supervise

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Trees and grass do more than make a person feel closer to nature. In the midst of a public housing complex in inner-city Chicago, such greenery supports children's play, particularly creative forms of play, and encourages the presence of adult supervision.

The findings -- published in the January-February issue of Environment and Behavior -- have implications for urban policymakers and for the general health and well-being of children growing up amid the poverty of America's concrete jungles, say University of Illinois researchers.

In 64 outdoor spaces of Chicago's Ida B. Wells housing development, almost twice as many children (ages 3-12) played in areas with trees and grass than in barren spaces. Creative forms of play occurred considerably less frequently in non- or low-vegetation areas.

"I think from a policy standpoint, the findings about more play are exciting, because play in general has important implications in children's development," said Frances E. Kuo, co-director of the U. of I. Human-Environment Research Laboratory.

Specially trained observers also watched for the presence of adults, finding that the children's access to either partial or full adult supervision was doubled in areas with vegetation. Observations were done during after-school hours and on Saturdays.

The sites, differing only in the amounts of vegetation, are about equal in size within the complex of 100 one- to four-story apartment buildings. On average, 16 families share a single courtyard. Of the 5,700 residents in the complex -- one of the 10 poorest neighborhoods in the nation -- 97 percent are African American and 44 percent are children under age 14. Unemployment is 93 percent.

"I think the public often has a sense that the conditions of the inner city are at least partially due to the behaviors of individuals who live there," Kuo said. "It's important to remember how many children are growing up in these c
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Contact: Jim Barlow
b-james3@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
6-Feb-1998


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