Although a school playground may just seem like fun, an array of benefits come from children spending time with other kids using playground equipment. The positive effects of a school or park playground go far beyond the obvious ones, like physical exercise. Playgrounds can actually provide essential experiences and development for children in areas as diverse as social skills, creativity, problem solving, reasoning and more. The benefits that a simple trip to the playground can provide are often more profound and far-reaching than those that even the most sophisticated modern teaching-based technologies can provide.
- Understanding What Play is
In order to decipher what benefits playgrounds can provide for children, it’s helpful to first understand exactly what play is and how it helps children develop. Play allows kids to learn a range of skills, including: coordination and motor skills, cognitive skills, social acumen, language and more. Doctors, scientists from psychologists to biologists, and educators have all conducted research that proves this critical fact: Without being able to play, children may develop the aforementioned skills at a severely stunted rate. Just like eating and sleeping each day, play is completely necessary for a child to develop necessary skills at a healthy rate. Humans aren’t the only ones who need consistent play to be happy and well adjusted, either; other mammals like apes, dolphins and cats need it, too!
- Physical Benefit of Play
There are many reasons why kids need to be able to play. One of these is that it promotes basic cognitive skills. Some of these (all of which are important for a growing child) include: problem solving, discovery, creativity, reasoning and dexterity. Take a typical playground, and imagine your child climbing the monkey bars. In this case, he or she will need to use motor skills to swing from one bar to the next. He will also need hand-eye coordination to know when to swing and when to grab. These skills both take reasoning, as well. When he approaches the monkey bars, he has to consider—albeit maybe only momentarily—how he is going to get from the beginning to the end of the monkey bars. Although this may seem trivial, these skills are all used every day in life, in differing capacities. By spending time on playgrounds, your child learns these diverse skills, tests them with different equipment and strengthens them daily.
- Mental & Emotional Benefits of Play
Children also learn how to interact socially during play. During the process of going down a slide, multiple children must form a line and take turns. This teaches kids several skills at once: cooperation, patience, language (discussing who is going to go first, etc.) and more. These are all tasks that will help a child with his or her social interactions in school, within a wider community, among friends and eventually in the workplace and adult relationships.
In addition to simply using playground equipment, a range of other games can take place on the playground, including make believe and sports. Make-believe games teach children social roles and coping mechanisms. Pretending is one way that children can deal with traumatic situations and learn to talk through problems or conflict. Playing pretend is also an effective way for kids to try on different ideas, identities and construct a strong sense of self through likes, dislikes and beliefs. This continues throughout a child’s life, but it begins with these necessary and innocent exercises during play.
A child who is encouraged to play regularly—with other children, with parents/siblings, outdoors, indoors and engaging in many activities—can develop optimally, growing into a healthy, well-adjusted adult.