Pathways for Play

Pathways for Play

PlayCore, the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), and American Trails joined together to create Pathways for Play, a program to create walking, hiking, and biking trails that have “play pockets” along the way. These play opportunities vary in size and contain a mix of natural and manufactured play elements, which are linked by pathways, greenways, trails, or sidewalks to encourage continuous movement.1

The mission of Pathways for Play is to create “innovative pathway designs infused with play” to increase children's walking and biking habits.2 They have published a guide, Pathways for Play: Best Practice Guidelines, which establishes five design principles: include play and learning values into pathways, create multi-use and inclusive pathways, connect pathways to meaningful destinations, locate pathways where children live, and apply appropriate themes and messages.3

Research shows that the benefits of these linear play paths include increased nature connection, greater mental and physical health, and a connected community, both physically and socially.4

Further support for play pathways is offered online through webinars, resource links, research results, case studies of developing pathways, and a family-oriented My Path page linking children's literature, hiking tips, nature activities, and an online journal for sharing play experiences.5

Pathways for Play was created as a companion program to NatureGrounds, a program to reintroduce nature back into play spaces. NatureGrounds is a collaboration between PlayCore and the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI).

  • 1. “About Pathways for Play.” Pathways for Play. < > 22 June 2011.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. “Pathways for Play.” American Trails. < > 3 July 2011.
  • 4. Benefits.” Pathways for Play. < > 22 June 2011.
  • 5. “My Path.” Pathways for Play. < > 3 July 2011.