When we think of small children playing on the playground, we smile. What many people don't realize is how important in a child's development this time on the playground can be. There is abundant research on the benefits of playground play in the development of children's social/emotional, physical, sensory, cognitive and communication skills.
When children are involved in unstructured playing, they are learning. This learning - emotional, social, motor and cognitive is enhanced by this play. Play involves the body (running and jumping); the mind Imagination), equipment and props (playground equipment and toys), and words (singing joking) The most crucial time for a child's development is the earliest years. Play stimulates a child's brain development and function and helps build the brain's foundation, organization, and capabilities.
There is a definite difference between the structure of a gym class and the spontaneous play on a playground. Random play with children of all ages and backgrounds can develop imagination, motor skills, and social interaction because the child must be able to adjust to unscripted activities. Correctly designed playgrounds will incorporate six key elements of play to address fitness, physical activity and overall child development.
These six elements are:
- Brachiating (Move by using the arms to swing from branch to branch)
Very early childhood is a time of rapid change and learning. Toddler playgrounds help them learn about the world around them while developing strength and stability. Before they can even go to school, preschool play equipment can develop cognitive skills and prepare toddlers for the social environment of school. Motor skills, balance, physical skills, and sensory experiences are developed and enhanced through toddler playgrounds. Active play can encourage exercise and physical activity, which can later on develop into an active lifestyle.
"Crawl & Toddle, Cruise-a-Long, Play Station, Sensory Wall, Object Recognition, and The Big Outdoors" are play equipment developed specifically for the 6 months to 2 year old age group. Multiple textures, brightly colored themes, and play equipment which graduates in challenge, will attract this varying group of toddlers to explore and imagine.
According to PlayCore. Inc., for children ages 2-5 " play equipment should be lower to the ground, have a wider base of support and incorporate upper-body components that are designed to support young children's body weight at a very low level. Activities that focus on upper body bilateral coordination and the patterning for climbing are the prerequisite skills that provide a foundation for brachiating."
Swings and slides are playground activities that help develop balance and spatial awareness plus fine motor skills such as gripping and gross motor skills such as pumping of the legs to go higher. Also, the cognitive awareness and coordination of putting these skills together is developed.
Playground equipment which involves climbing builds a body awareness and coordination of their body parts. Problem solving skills are developed and a sense of pride from accomplishing this task. This self-esteem and cognitive abilities extend from the playground to the classroom.
Providing a balance of these four different types of play will provide multiple opportunities for child development:
- Free Play is play that is without adult input or guidance.
- Imaginative play is free play that involves the children using their creativity with elements of dramatic play, pretend or make-believe.
- Guided play has a loosely defined framework of social rules.
- Directed play occurs under the direction of an adult usually to meet a specific objective.
Free play in playgrounds is important in the development of verbal and social skills shown by the creation of fantasy games. A game of tag or making a piece of playground equipment into a castle, the children learn to negotiate roles, compromise, to lead and to follow, and work together. They also learn self-control and to take turns in order to continue to keep playing in the "game." Playground equipment that links different elements together provides multiple opportunities for children to socialize in different types of interaction; nooks and crannies for one or more children or adult and child to play.
It's important to remember that the very act of playing is a vital component in the development of a child's brain, body, and cognition, and lays the grid for neural pathways through repetitive motions. It allows a child to imagine, create, and explore through interaction with playground equipment and peers while building the social, verbal, and problem-solving skills necessary in today's world.
Bliss Products offers equipment for young children which challenges and develops fitness and self-confidence. Equipment such as the Crawl & Toddle, Cruise-a-Long, Play Station, Sensory Wall, Object Recognition, and The Big Outdoors build fine and gross motor skills, fitness, agility, and problem-solving skills. The use of freestanding play pieces and the increase in climbing events, allow children to build their confidence while still creating a safe and fun atmosphere.