Shan Jiang, Clemson University alumna and the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play Research Grant recipient, presented her findings on a pediatric health care environment study at the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play hosted at Clemson.

The Play Conference is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, business and community leaders, physicians and many more from across the U.S. and beyond.

“I feel this conference is a nice opportunity to come back and visit my school and old friends,” Jiang said. “I’m so honored to have received the grant as an alumna. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Jiang earned her doctoral degree from the Planning, Design, and the Built Environment (PDBE) Program at Clemson University, with a joint affiliation with Architecture + Health Program, housed in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities.

Last year the West Virginia University professor was awarded the grant for her project, “Healing through Play: Play Opportunities as Positive Distractions at Pediatric Healthcare Environment.”

Each year at the Play Conference, a $3,000 research seed grant is awarded to a researcher or group of researchers who present empirical research to support new, innovative and thoughtful work on the value of play.  This is seed funding in support for future research in diverse topics related to play.

In the year since receiving the award, Jiang studied pediatric greenspace and healing gardens at an award-winning designed hospital in New Jersey.

So, they observed the gardens and held focus group discussions to find out why how the spaces were used and to identify the barriers preventing people from visiting the spaces.

They found that the gardens are used for viewing purposes from hospital rooms, because some of the gardens don’t have a clear and easy physical access. Out of the three gardens, the team found that the spaces were either too difficult to access, too solemn for children, or created concerns for maintenance considerations and for parents whose children played in the rooftop garden.

The team found that when developing spaces for children in health care, direct physical access and a playful atmosphere including color palettes and more attractive features, will help encourage play in the gardens meant for children.

Jiang was inspired to shift her research on positive distractions in the built environment for patients that she started at Clemson to pediatric health care spaces because of own experiences as a mother.

“After I graduated, I had a baby. I took her to the wellness checks, and found that though the clinics were places for younger patients, there weren’t many inviting spaces and playful features there,” Jiang said. “Some hospitals and clinics have some small stuff like TVs and books, but it’s not very inviting for some young kids. I just feel could we do something more like introducing a beautiful and playful outdoor space.”

Her research provides preliminary design suggestions to create playful, safe and therapeutic gardens for patients and young visitors in pediatric healthcare environments, which plays a role as positive distractions in the healing process for patients and the whole family.