THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAYGROUNDS FOR DEVELOPING CHILDREN
Most adults remember their school recess times with fondness. These opportunities to leave the constraints of the classroom behind and set out for another playground adventure are memories you cherish forever. However, today’s children are overwhelmed with an abundance of activities and few opportunities to enjoy freely playing outside. Video games and TV, after-school activities and the concentration on academics over playtime have led to many playgrounds disappearing from our kids’ play landscape.
Most people don’t realize playgrounds are actually of vital importance to children. These are safe spaces where kids can be kids and express their fun-loving nature. Playgrounds offer a variety of incredible benefits. In this post, we’ll explore why more and more child development experts are advocating for more playground and free play opportunities for kids.
LEARNING THROUGH PLAY
You can’t have a playground without play. To put it simply, play is a spontaneous activity children engage in to have fun. Experts in a variety of fields including psychology, biology, health and education have conducted a multitude of studies on the concept of childhood play all proving the same critical fact — play is an essential aspect of learning.
When children play, they gain a huge variety of skills:
- Motor skills
- Cognitive abilities
- Social awareness
- And so much more
Play is fueled by a child’s curiosity. As a child grows, their play becomes more complex. Without being able to play, children’s ability to develop and learn is stunted. Just as eating and sleeping are essential to a child’s health, so too is play.
Playgrounds are the perfect place for children to engage in free play. Structured play — including sports or organized activities — differs from free play. When a child is on a playground, the different structures and spaces give them the freedom to choose how they want to play. They can explore their own natural tendencies, interact with a broader range of age groups and awaken their creative instincts.
When you watch children on a playground, you’ll soon see that although they’re having fun, they’re definitely getting a workout. The CDC recommends children should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day — and the playground is the perfect place to get this done. Plus, when kids get into the habit of exercising and see it as an enjoyable experience, it encourages them to remain active as they get older.
Playgrounds are a vital aspect of healthy development, providing a place for children to get a full-body workout, including exercises that strengthen their arms, legs, torso and so on. From the cardiovascular system to the circulatory system, each is nurtured and benefited through vigorous play. Children see a vast variety of physical benefits through playground play:
- Improved flexibility and balance
- Development of overall motor skills, dexterity and hand-eye coordination
- Opportunities to learn how to control their movement
- Improved instincts
- Promotion of healthy heart and lung function
- Stronger muscles
- Improved immune function
- Lowered risk of obesity and diabetes
When children spend time on the playgrounds, they learn diverse skills and test their limits by trying out the various equipment. Slides, swings, climbers and more encourage kids to develop their agility, speed, strength, balance and coordination.
Playgrounds are not generally a solitary activity. Whenever you visit a playground, other kids are bound to be there. When children meet other kids on the playground, it teaches them important lessons about social norms and how to interact with others, all of which will come in handy in adult relationships and their future workplace. Learned social skills include:
- Getting along
- Agreeing on rules and cooperating
- Taking turns and patience
- Resolving conflict
- Overcoming shyness
- Sharing and friendship
- Accepting diversity as they meet children of all ages and backgrounds
The physical and social benefits of play are more obvious. However, there are also subtle emotional changes in your child’s wellbeing that may not be as recognizable, yet are still vitally important.
Physical activity and unstructured playtime on a playground serve as a healthy way to help children deal with their emotions and reduce stress levels. Not only can play serve as a distraction from their problems, but happiness is a natural byproduct of outdoor activities.
Children experience many other positive emotional impacts when they’re allowed the freedom to play on a playground. Playtime benefits children because it:
- Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem as they master challenging playground structures
- Allows them to retain a sense of control unavailable in many other parts of their lives
- Lowers tendencies to misbehave or bully, as kids’ attention is diverted with more positive activities
- Teaches them how to deal with challenges in a healthy way
Kids do more than slide, swing and climb when on a playground. Just listen to the conversations, and you’ll realize a variety of other make-believe games are taking place. Imaginary play is a given whenever kids are on the playground.
When children use their imagination and play make-believe, it teaches them social roles. Creativity also fosters a child’s ability to problem-solve and develop their personality. By using their imagination, kids can try out different ideas and identities. This helps them construct a strong sense of self, as they discover their likes, dislikes and beliefs. Although developing self-identity will continue throughout their young life, the foundation begins with these innocent
make-believe activities on the playground.
MAKES EDUCATION MORE FUN
When a child’s school has a playground, these short breaks allow kids freedom and fun, which, in turn, makes the educational experience more fun. In fact, researchers now understand that school playgrounds have an important impact on a child’s ability to learn and develop.
Opportunities for play also have an effect on children’s attendance rate at the primary school level. When a child knows there will be opportunities to let loose, they often find it easier to listen and learn in the classroom environment.
CONTACT MAX PLAY
A community playground is a natural place to come together. If your school, park, condo association, or community needs its own play space, contact Max Play to start designing your creative new playground today.