Architects. Planners. Designers.

Creative Play in Master Planned Communities


Do you remember running around your neighborhood as a kid exploring and discovering your surroundings? I do.

I remember building forts, riding bikes or playing streetball with my friends until it got dark. Once the streetlights came on, it was game over and time to head home. Times have definitely changed. Over the last 30 years, our culture has seen a decline in Creative Play opportunities for children in our society. Many times community design uses a formulaic approach to amenity programming regardless of context. Whether it’s an urban infill or greenfield site, the amenities are typically recognizable, safe and cost effective. The unintended consequences of such a universal approach can dumb-down the project and adversely affect the heart and soul of the community. It’s important that the amenity features reflect the site and the people who live there.


Creative Play is a simple philosophy that ties into the basic behavior of being human and it’s a subject that I’m passionate about. We are curious by nature; we like to interact with each other reflecting on similar group experiences. Creative Play is the simple act of exploration through tactical, visual and auditory experiences in our surroundings. It is not repetitive but rather remarkable. Studies show that physical and mental play improves brain elasticity and cognitive function. We need places where it’s okay to get dirty and make mistakes; this ability to explore and have freestyle play promotes brain health for ages 2 – 92.

As industry designers and professionals, we need to make room for spaces that:
• Foster opportunities where Creative Play can occur.
• Allow physical and mental growth through learning and exploration.
• Increase social interaction to unlock mind and health opportunities.
• Allow kids to have the same experiences we did: Let them get dirty!
• Provide safe and comfortable environments for seniors to grow and flourish in.
• Make our communities fun!


Photo credit: Embrey Mill by Newland Communities

Around the country, there are bold pioneers who are bending the rules when it comes to amenity programming and implementation. Their passion for creating unique places within built environments sets them apart from their peers.

Come join our discussion at PCBC on Thursday, June 29th at 10:00 am and learn how to incorporate the concepts of Creative Play into your communities. Hear from Malee C. Tobias, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Newland Communities; Brett A Park, Principal at BrightView Design Group; and Michael Schrock, President of Urban Arena about how they achieved differentiation in a formulaic world.


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