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Motor Skill Development on the Playground

Motor Skill Development on the Playground

Playgrounds are great for building both gross and fine motor skills in kids. At the playground, kids can swing, climb, slide and more while they stretch and develop their muscles and their control of these muscle groups.

They can work on abilities like strength and dexterity, which can later aid in other tasks like writing and drawing. Playgrounds are essential for developing child motor skills, and they provide tons of fun in the process.

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Fine vs. Gross Motor Skills

Motor skills are the capabilities we all use every day to move and complete numerous tasks. Motor skills and motor control start developing right after birth and continue through childhood. We generally categorize motor skills into two major groups: fine and gross. Both types are important to growth and development. There are various milestones for motor skill development that kids typically reach at specific ages, but each child is different and may achieve these at different times.

Gross motor skills involve large muscle groups like the arms, legs and torso, and they require higher levels of energy. These abilities encompass broader, larger movements like walking, jumping and climbing. Some gross motor skills also involve hand-eye coordination, as in learning to throw and catch a ball.

Fine motor skills use smaller muscle groups — often the hands, wrists and fingers. These can involve properly gripping an item to pick it up or using just a thumb and forefinger instead of the whole hand for smaller tasks. Examples of fine motor skills include typing on a keyboard or pushing buttons, writing and drawing, playing with small toys and handling objects like play dough or sand.

Gross Motor Skills Involve Large Muscle Groups

Gross Motor Skill Development on the Playground

One of the main ways that kids learn and develop their motor skills is through playtime, and one of the best places to do this is on the playground. Once small children learn basic gross motor skills like crawling and sitting up, they are ready to work on learning more movements at the playground on age-appropriate equipment. As children play, their gross motor skills improve even without them knowing they are working on these abilities.

Kids can practice general gross motor skills like walking around the playground and jumping around, but certain common playground elements are also helpful in gross motor skills development. Here is how playground equipment helps with these skills:

  • Slides: Climbing ladders or steps up to the slide helps children learn to start balancing and shifting their weight. When going down the slide, children can experiment with different body positions and feel their bodies in motion while also working on balance and control.
  • Swings: While on the swings, the body is in motion and the feet are off the ground. This motion helps kids work on balance and coordination. When kids learn to pump their feet to propel themselves on the swings, they work on sequencing and coordinating body parts and movements to control the swing.
  • Tubes: Crawling through playground tubes allows kids to work on their core strength and coordinate their bodies in different ways. Crawling tubes allow for creativity and facilitate different types of movement so kids can make their way through.
  • Climbing features: Whether completely stationary or equipped with moveable elements like ropes, climbing features strengthen arms, legs, fingers and the upper body. They offer a great way to work on balance, coordination of extremities and sequencing of which hand or foot moves next.
  • Monkey bars: Great for hand strength and upper body strength, monkey bars also help develop coordination and sequencing.
  • Spring riders: These freestanding rides feature a seat attached to a spring and often have a creative, themed appearance like a car, motorcycle or animal for kids to ride on. Spring riders help with coordinating different body parts to make the ride move, as well as improving balance and strengthening the core and extremity muscles.
  • See-saws: Kids get practice with balance, coordination and sequencing all at the same time on the see-saw. The see-saw requires two children working together to move the equipment, which adds an extra layer of coordination practice.

Fine Motor Skills Use Smaller Muscle Groups

Fine Motor Skill Development on the Playground

Fine motor skills start becoming more developed and refined after some of the basic gross motor skills are mastered, but they can also be acquired at the same time. And while gross motor skill development may seem more obvious at a playground, these play spaces also provide a great place to work on fine motor skills. Here are some fine motor skills that are often enhanced through playtime at the playground:

  • Grasping: This movement is sometimes even called the power grasp. Numerous types of playground equipment can help children work on their grasping skills, which strengthens hands, fingers and arms. This grasp is used for grabbing monkey bars, ladder rungs, swings or the sides of a slide. Grasping skills are needed for holding scissors and pencils, gripping things like doorknobs or opening jars.
  • Stability: As another skill that’s used on just about any piece of playground equipment, stability involves learning to keep certain body parts still while others move. This skill is key for improving and controlling writing and drawing skills, as well as other smaller hand movements.
  • Postural control: Gaining strong postural control is a precursor to enhanced fine motor skills. Climbing, swinging, sliding and more can all help with this skill, which involves strengthening the muscles in the back and abdominals. Postural control helps children sit properly and independently in their chairs, setting them up for better success with writing and other classroom activities.
  • Special activity features: Many playgrounds today include unique features that encourage creative play. These could be a tic-tac-toe board or a panel of spinning blocks that show different pictures, or a panel with buttons and levers for little hands to grasp. All of these features develop small hand movements and muscle coordination.

Playground Equipment From Miracle® Recreation

For almost a century, Miracle Recreation has been a trusted name in playground equipment. Our innovative and creative play spaces adhere to the highest safety standards and structural integrity regulations and have enhanced communities all across the United States. We offer a wide variety of playground structures perfect for working on fine and gross motor skills while also sparking kids’ imaginations and providing plenty of fun and enjoyment.

Choose from an array of themed and inclusive play structures or work with our design staff to customize something truly unique. To get more information or find and speak with a representative near you, contact Miracle Recreation today.