Why Schools Should Have More Playground Equipment
One of the most important but often overlooked learning spaces at any school is its playground. A school’s play area is more than just a place to unwind or blow off steam in between math, reading and history. School playgrounds are actually a vital part of students’ development.
Play is a crucial component of development for kids. It has been recognized by medical professionals and human rights advocates around the world as essential to a kid’s overall health and wellbeing. Playgrounds provide teachers, administrators and parents with an outdoor environment at the school designed to encourage exploration, growth and play.
When you’re planning the budget for school upgrades and improvements, it’s tempting to overlook the play area. But consider the vital role that increased and improved playground equipment can play in a kid’s development.
Benefits of Playground Equipment for Schools
Playgrounds are an ideal way to help kids burn off excess energy, which is why most parents and teachers love them so much. But play spaces also play an incredibly important role in a kid’s development and overall health. Discover the reasons schools need playgrounds with these benefits they provide:
1. Helps Kids Develop Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are demonstrated by major muscle groups in the torso, arms and legs. These skills include walking, jumping, kicking, throwing and lifting. Gross motor skill development is crucial because it forms the basis for fine motor skill development. This process is why babies learn to roll over, sit up and pull up long before they can hold a fork or make a pinching motion with their fingers.
Gross motor skill development also helps kids become more aware of their body and how it moves, as well as reaction, balance and improving strength.
This awareness of the body’s spatial orientation is managed by the body’s vestibular system. This system is responsible for the movements and physical responses the body generates as it shifts and changes position. If you’ve ever spun in circles on a tire swing and felt dizzy afterward, that’s a response from your body’s vestibular system. When kids play on a playground, they learn to identify these sensations, as well as how to handle them when they come.
Play areas provide a place for kids to develop these skills in many different ways, some more obvious than others. A climbing wall, for example, provides a place for kids to develop finger and upper body strength. Climbing equipment that moves also requires kids to strengthen coordination and balance and improves joints and muscles.
Another way that playgrounds can help kids develop gross motor skills is on equipment like swings and slides. Climbing to the top of a slide or pumping their legs to swing requires students to use and build their muscles in their legs and abdominal areas.
2. Improves Physical Health of Kids
Offering high-quality, plentiful playground equipment is an essential investment in your students’ health. If a school doesn’t have a play space or it doesn’t have enough equipment, kids often end up sitting around bored or discouraged because they can’t get a turn with the equipment. Investing in more playground equipment encourages each student to engage in physical activity during recess.
Play areas help kids build their gross motor skills, but they also benefit students’ overall physical health. Research has shown that spending just 17 minutes a day outside contributes to better physical health and emotional wellbeing. But there’s more to good physical health than fresh air. Offering ample playground equipment encourages students to engage their muscles in a variety of physical activities rather than just sit on the sidelines.
Many parents and school administrators are surprised to learn that swinging and sliding offer a number of physical benefits to kids because they engage different muscle groups. Climbing structures also offer a number of physical benefits.
Investing in a playground upgrade is a worthwhile investment because it encourages students to engage in activities when their class goes outside for recess. If students suddenly see a new play structure or upgrades to a tired, old playset, they’re more likely to engage in play with their peers rather than sit or stand to the side and watch.
3. Encourages Outdoor Play and Other Activities
Kids today don’t play outside as much as they used to. In fact, studies have shown that today’s kids spend only 30 minutes outside each day and more than seven hours a day in front of screens.
Schools can encourage students to play more outside by providing a playground that excites them and makes them want to be outside. Even if your school can’t offer an extended recess, encouraging outdoor play and engagement can translate to more time playing outdoors after school and on the weekend.
Playing outside also teaches kids about their relationship with the natural world. Swings and slides teach them about gravity. Rolling in the grass or picking flowers nearby allows them to interact with nature. Even learning that the sun makes them hot or that breezes cool them down gives kids important opportunities for engaging in the natural world. And playgrounds often provide the motivation that this digital generation needs to get outside and be active.
Besides learning about how the natural world works, spending time outside can help kids develop a love and respect for the environment that will extend into adulthood. Studies show 87% of adults who played outside as kids reported a continuing love of nature into their adult years. To cultivate adults who care about their environment and enjoy interacting with nature, encourage that interest in young kids.
4. Develops the Students’ Creativity
Themed playgrounds are a great way to inspire creativity in students. Let students pretend to be a king in a castle or a pirate on the high seas or the driver of a firetruck. That play can inspire them to create fun, engaging stories among all their peers on the playground. Play areas with musical or other sensory equipment can further encourage engagement because students can create music and sounds that accompany their play.
But that doesn’t mean schools need to invest their resources in an elaborate castle or farm scene playground. Some schools and communities have been successful in creating play spaces with more abstract equipment that allow kids to use their imaginations to create and play all sorts of games.
Some of the creativity playgrounds spark can come from the effort to make your school’s playground different from others in the community. When kids encounter equipment they haven’t been able to use in the past, they have a fresh new chance to create games and ideas they haven’t had before. New experiences develop their creativity further, and they also prevent kids from becoming bored.
5. Develops Social Skills Among Peers
Parents and teachers love playgrounds because they are great for getting out excess energy in kids. But kids love play areas because they are a place they can play and engage with friends and peers their own age.
For many students, the playground is the social scene at school, letting them engage and interact with their peers outside of the structure and expectations of the classroom. Group play encourages kids to practice taking turns, cooperate and listen, among other skills. Kids can engage in games and imaginative play together, teaching them to get along and enjoy the company of others.
That doesn’t mean that arguments don’t break out on the playground. As any teacher or administrator knows, the playground can often be the source of conflict among students, especially when there isn’t enough space or equipment to go around. Improving your play space with new equipment can help mitigate those instances. You’ll also offer kids a new place to play and interact, allowing students to work out their differences and find new ways to cooperate together.
Even if students still have conflict, the playground can help. Conflict is a natural part of life. Part of growing up is allowing kids to work through conflict in positive ways. When kids have unstructured playtime during their school day, they’ll also learn how to cooperate and get along with those they don’t always agree with.
6. Improves Learning
Think of your school’s play area as an extension of the classroom. On the playground, students can engage with the natural world they learn about in the classroom. They can also rest and refresh their brains to return to the classroom, ready to continue learning.
Studies have shown that students who are active have higher brain activity, and they’re 20% more likely to earn an A in English or math. Time outside has also been shown to help students with ADHD focus better when they go back into the classroom. But outdoor play isn’t just about good grades.
When kids play on the playground, they’re challenged to try things that may seem difficult or scary. A young kid may encounter a fireman’s pole or a climbing wall that may seem beyond their scope of ability. But, as they encounter and overcome these challenges over time, they gain more confidence in their abilities.
This confidence can easily translate to their belief in their own abilities in the classroom. A student who may believe they “can’t” understand fractions now knows they should keep trying. A student who has struggled in reading can rise to the challenge because they know they are capable.
Spending time outside during the school day also gives kids a constructive way to work out the stress and anxiety they may feel. Especially in students who struggle more at school, it’s important to provide them with an outlet to work through their feelings outside of the classroom. By providing them with this outlet, they can return to the classroom calmer and better able to learn.
7. Supports Kids’ Mental Health
Over the last 50 years, there has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression among kids. This increase in depression and anxiety has been linked to the findings that kids aren’t spending enough time outside. Kids need time in their day to play without the rules and constraints of a classroom or household. They need a place to play where adults won’t micromanage everything that happens and where they are free to create, imagine and play whatever they want.
When students play on the playground, they have the chance to interact with their peers. They can create games, solve problems and explore the world around them. They have the chance to work things out for themselves, releasing stress, anxiety and other negative emotions that may otherwise be building up inside.
Fresh air and sunshine are also important components of good mental health. Why? Sunlight and vitamin D are important mood boosters. Being outside also encourages physical activity, which is known to increase positive outlook and happiness.
That’s not to say that teachers shouldn’t keep a watchful eye on what happens on the playground. It’s more important than ever to ensure that kids have a safe space to play with others. However, it’s also essential for schools to create a space for kids to play that isn’t micromanaged by teachers and administrators. Establishing fair play rules and keeping a watchful eye on kids while they’re on the playground allows them to play and explore in a safe space.
8. Encourages Development of Other Talents
Playgrounds offering a wide range of equipment allow students of all ages and abilities to find things they’re good at and nurture those skills. Some kids may be really good at pumping on the swing. Others may swing across monkey bars with ease, and others may learn to race to the top of a climbing wall. Playgrounds with more extensive equipment open up options for students to find things they enjoy and things they’re good at, building their self-esteem every step of the way.
Among the skills kids can develop on the playground, you’ll find:
- Leadership: Kids learn how to explain the rules of a game or direct others in play. Ideally, kids take turns doing this so that one kid isn’t just the “boss” of the group. But, ultimately, playground time is about taking charge and learning to lead.
- Imaginative play: Playgrounds are a great place for kids to be inspired to imagine and create. Themed playgrounds can set the stage for imaginative games, such as playing pirates, farmers or first responders. Other play areas may not have a specific theme, but they can inspire kids to imagine climbing mountains, sliding down a river rapid or riding a rocket ship.
- Critical thinking: When children are presented with choices on the playground, they need to plan their time. Expanding a play space gives students more equipment to pick from, meaning they’ll engage with critical thinking as they decide what they play on first.
9. Teaches Kids About Nature
Playgrounds are a great tool for encouraging kids to play outside. And kids who play outside tend to develop and maintain a healthy respect and passion for the environment as they grow. Outdoor play doesn’t just teach kids about nature — it also encourages more robust imaginative play than kids would find indoors.
Some playgrounds are designed to incorporate nature into the play space itself, using the surrounding environment and landscape to create a space for kids to roam and explore. If that isn’t an option, kids can still reap the benefits of time spent outside on an improved play space.
Teachers might not incorporate slides and swings into their daily lessons. But the playground and natural space around your school provides ample opportunities for students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom, especially about the natural world.
By creating a safe space where they can explore, kids can observe and interact with rocks, insects, trees and other things they have learned about inside. Teachers can also use the playground to reinforce respect for nature by expecting students to clean up their messes and leave rocks, sticks and other natural items where they found them.
10. Teaches Kids About Community
Improving or increasing your school’s playground equipment is a crucial way to teach kids about community. A school’s play space can become the center of community for students. On the playground, kids learn to engage with other kids who are similar — and different.
Students learn to cooperate with kids who play different games or have different strengths and weaknesses. Depending on how recess time is structured at your school, students may have the opportunity to interact with peers in other classes, which also exposes them to different perspectives and personalities they might not encounter in their own classroom.
Perhaps most important of all, playgrounds give kids the chance to come together, to share what they’re learning and to teach each other. When kids play, they aren’t just blowing off steam or wasting time. They are teaching themselves, and each other, how the world works and what they need to know as they grow and develop.
When kids are developing their critical thinking and leadership skills on the playground, they are practicing these skills for the future. Kids who learn to think critically or lead others through challenging situations can be better equipped as adults. They’ll be ready for the day when they need to pitch in to help their community or lead others in the quest for a better tomorrow.
Improve Your School’s Playground Equipment With Miracle Recreation®
Next time you step out on your school’s playground, take a look around. What do you see? If you’re like many adults, you probably see a slide, some swings and a set of monkey bars. Then close your eyes.
Picture a space where kids can explore the environment, interact with their peers and create imaginative games. Picture a space that’s an extension of your indoor classrooms, giving kids a window into the world they’re a part of. Picture a space that prepares kids to become adults who are successful leaders and champions of the environment.
All of that and more can come from the simple act of playing outside. Investing in high-quality playground equipment can make a big difference in the lives of the students you encounter every day.
If your school needs to update or add to an existing play area, Miracle Recreation offers a wide selection of playground equipment. Whether you’re looking for traditional pieces or a themed playground, our experienced team can help you choose just the right pieces for your play space.
Contact us for a quote or to get started designing your play space today.