Why it’s important for kids to play.
For kids playing is simply playing. It’s having fun, taking a break from school or sitting at the restaurant table. Getting rid of some of that extra built up energy. When they play on a playground or jungle gym however, it is much more than just playing. It’s promoting healthy childhood development, both physically and emotionally.
Physical benefits of a playground:
Swinging is one of the most basic of activities, yet it teaches a child so much. It teaches the child how to balance themselves and being lifted off the ground promotes spatial awareness. Furthermore, their fine motor skills are improved by the gripping of the rope or chains. Their gross motor skills are improved by using their legs to propel themselves. By completing the swinging action, they improve their coordination. They also learn how their own bodies can influence direction and speed.
Climbing also develops gross motor skills, children learn to propel themselves upward with their legs and pull themselves up with their arms. When they climb an obstacle with multiple hand and footholds they learn to become aware of their surroundings, this tie in with promoting problem solving. When they are busy climbing they must think ahead, where should I put my hand, where should my foot go next or how am I going to get down? This is beneficial both in and out of the classroom.
Monkey bars, just like swings, promote both fine and gross motor skills. Children learn to grip the bars and use their arms and body to swing to the next bars. This also helps improve coordination and balance while simultaneously becoming aware of where the bars are in relation to their own bodies.
Social and brain development on a playground:
Generally, kids do not play alone. When surrounded by other children their age they tend to make friends very quickly, they play together and learn to interact with other children of their own age promoting healthy social growth.
It sparks their imagination. When playing with friends, or even when playing alone, the playground becomes more than a wooden frame with a slide; it becomes a pirate ship or a castle or one of the all-time favorites: the floor becomes lava.
Problem solving ends up being an integral part of a playground. Children do not always agree, one might want the playground to be a boat and the other might want it to be a castle. In the end they will learn to compromise and solve their problems together.
Emotional development on a playground:
Kids will feel emotions regardless of whether they are on a playground or not. However, the playground teaches them to regulate those emotions themselves.
When they fall, they learn to get up, when someone else falls, they learn to help them up. Being surrounded by others with the same or slightly higher emotional level as they are helps them learn appropriate reactions and control.
When someone else is using the play equipment they want to use they might get angry or upset. However, the more they are faced with this, the more opportunities they have to learn how to control their emotions when things aren’t going their way.
The playground is an emotional place for children, filled with a lot of excitement and fun, but also with challenges. In the end experiencing and learning to control all those emotions are an integral part of growing up and their long-term emotional health.
Playgrounds are much more beneficial than you might have thought. It’s more than just a way to get a few minutes break from the kids. Playgrounds are not just for playing, they are for learning, developing and making friends.
Every child deserves a space where both they and their imagination can run free, where they can fight off pirates, escape the lava and free the princess.