Playgrounds provide more to our young children than just a place to run and play. The benefits of playgrounds for children ages 2-5 target emotional, social, physical, and cognitive develop. That’s right! Playing on a playground increases brain development. It was once said by Mr. Rogers that, “Play is real learning.”
Below are some highlights of the benefits of playground structures:
- Climbing– when children climb, they are pursuing their innate nature to explore, see, and experience adventure. They are born to do this! Climbing benefits memory, problem solving and imagery for children. Other benefits to climbing are gross motor strength of the arms, legs and core (stomach area). When the body uses its arms and legs in opposition and then crosses over the middle of the body, the entire brain is used increasing brain development. Within safe reason, allow those children to climb away!
- Monkey Bars and other Overhead Equipment– Children love to be able to hang and climb with the arms but most children, especially girls ages 0-5 are very weak in the upper body. Climbing with the hands increases core strength, grip strength, hand-eye coordination and sideways weight shifts. Some children may need assistance at the early stages to not fall. Be sure the “drop zone” is not too far as broken arms and collar bones are typical when the wood chips are spread too thin and/or the apparatus is too high.
- Swings and slides– who doesn’t love time on the swings or a trip down the slide? Children seek out swinging type rides for various reasons. For a child who needs to be motivated, the swings and slides add adventure. For the over-stimulated child, the swings and slides meet the needs of the excited child providing that exciting feeling of “flying through the air.” Benefits of swinging type apparatus include gross motor benefits of swinging, swaying, turning, twisting, chest, arm, core, and grip strength. Swinging and sliding also stimulates the vestibular system that our bodies use to balance ourselves when we move through space. Be sure to caution children not to jump off swings as this provides a danger to both the swinger as well as the passer-by. In regard to slides, remember to use them safely; slides are for going down and ladders are for going up. Always slide DOWN the slide feet first.
Don’t live near a playground? Have no concerns. Keep those kids active in the yard, at a nearby park or by limited screen time when at home. There is plenty one can do inside the home provided there is a safe space. Remember that the suggested minimum guideline is 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Healthy, active kids make better learners!