Seven Cs Model for Outdoor Play Designs

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children_tiresHerrington, Lesmeister, Nicholls and Stefiuk (2010) created a Seven Cs model for designing children’s outdoor play spaces that maximize creativity and connect the physical conditions of outdoor play space with child development.  The authors suggest when planning outdoor play space that it is important to include stakeholders including children, parents, early childhood educators and a design team with skills in designing space.  They emphasize the importance of children being able to shape their environment. They further suggested that in environments where children had access to items such as sand, water, gravel, mud and plants, and loose parts, there were more developmental and play opportunities for children to embark on. The Seven Cs include:

  • Character
  • Context
  • Connectivity
  • Change
  • Chance
  • Clarity
  • Challenge

To obtain a brief overview of each of the Seven Cs, click on each of the words below that has been extracted from the document.


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Character refers to the overall feel and intent of the play space.  Four architectural types part of the character consideration that Herrington, (2010) et al., identified are modern, organic, modular, and re-use.

Modern character refers to the infrastructure and mechanisms of the landscape and building.

Organic character refers to the changing outdoor environment including the materials that children place in the environment and use.

Modular character refers to the stationary equipment such as climbers that are in the area.

Re-use character refers to the adaptation of space that was not originally intended for children’s use.



Context refers to the outdoor play space allocated for the children, the larger landscape that surrounds the centre and how the play space and the overall area interact with each other.


Connectivity refers to the physical, visual and cognitive connectivity of the space.


Change refers to the various sized spaces in the play area and how the overall play space changes over time.


Chance refers to the opportunity for children to have access to play space that is open-ended and flexible whereby they may create, manipulate and leave an impression on the play space.


Clarity refers to how the space combines physical legibility and perceptual imageability.


Challenge refers to the physical and cognitive opportunities that the play space provides.