At one point or another, most if not all of us have experienced the unrivalled joy of play on a dedicated playground, whether at school or when we were out with our families as children, or even bringing our own children to parks and playgrounds today. These playgrounds don’t just offer our children a way to burn off excess energy but offer an important area of development for growing children and help to positively encourage areas of growth across social, emotional, physical and cognitive behaviours.
As a parent, the next time you are thinking about heading off to the playground for a few hours, let these points put any doubts you have out of mind;
Play only happens in positive environments so playgrounds are extremely important for building social bonds between all ages of children from toddlers to teens. Play encourages imagination which sees children solving conflicts, dealing with hardships and able to try out new identities and beliefs that can develop their personality in different ways leading to well-balanced, confident adults.
Outdoor playground play, whether in parks or on school playground equipment also offers children a chance for more independent play, allowing shyer or quieter children an opportunity to find their feet and build relationships of their own on the playground. Additionally, play crosses boundaries of age, backgrounds and cultures between young children helping form socially healthy and accepting children who hold no prejudices against others as the grow and development.
One of the areas of child development that offers more visible results, playground play, especially outdoor play offers children a safe place to expel their excess energy which is a great contribution to their physical growth. Through running around, they build stamina and exercise muscle groupsin their legs, climbing exercises the upper body and improves hand-eye coordination while swinging helps with motor skills.
Playground play offers great health benefits and should be brought into a child’s schedule either through weekly meetups, giving children a chance to play with their friends or even as a weekly family day out with a picnic. In the winter when the weather isn’t suitable for getting outdoors, a soft play centre or indoor play areas are a great way to let kids enjoy themselves in the warm and still offer benefits through climbing, exploring and imagination.
There have been a number of studies that indicate that play is necessary for positive cognitive development and directly impacts a child's intelligence, confidence and ability to communicate. To encourage growth in these areas, both group and independent playare important. In addition, these types of play contribute to brain growth and a child’s understanding of the world, including spatial awareness, gravity, tactile and depth perception. Many elements of play like problem solving, memory training, creativity and self-evaluation are carried through to adulthood and play key parts in our daily lives.
Play is especially important for promoting positive cognitive development and is a good opportunity for parents to teach their children about the world. For example, with toddlers; playing with measuring cups for learning about size and volumes, different materials for tactile exploration and using a mirror to identify facial features for developing self-image.
The next time your child is tearing around the house because they’ve decided they are “bored” with their toys, consider taking them to a playground, not only does it give them a chance to wear themselves out, but it offers so many more benefits that they will take through into their adult life. Why not join in with your children the next time they have fun on the playground, after all, play is good for everyone and shouldn’t be just for the kids!