Playtime plays a vital role in a child’s early years since it helps them learn about and manipulate the environment around them. Through playtime, they learn about the most basic motor, cognitive, and social skills that become a critical part of their lives as they grow older.
As a parent, you can also use playtime to reinforce the skills your little one needs to thrive and teach them essential life lessons. Whether they are engaged in free or structured play, there are many things you can teach your kids at the playground.
In this post, we discuss some of the essential life lessons that kids can only learn on the playground. So, let us get started.
1. Conflict Resolution
Resolving conflicts amicably is a gift that most individuals lack. However, parents can instill this behavior in their children and teach them how to resolve disputes without involving an adult.
An outdoor playground is a great place to start teaching your little ones about conflict resolution by engaging them in conflict resolving games such as Rock, Paper, and Scissors.
Through such games, kids learn how to resolve their differences quickly so that the feelings of bitterness won’t linger after playtime is over.
Another excellent game you can try out with your kids is Ro Sham. Whenever kids clash or disagree about something, teach them how to listen to each other and find an amicable solution to their differences.
Let them understand that there are no losers and winners in such situations, and the only thing that matters is friendship and peace.
2. Thinking Outside the Box (Creativity)
One of the most critical benefits of free play is that it triggers imagination and creativity. Kids are usually encouraged to think for themselves and come up with creative ideas to implement.
Without an adult supervising and directing them on how to play, children are free to develop their own ideas and practice their problem-solving skills.
For instance, if a playground activity has spots for two kids only and we have three of them trying to play together, they may brainstorm and come up with a unique solution to the issue, such as having one of them act as a narrator for a play scene they are acting out.
Since most kids at a playground won’t turn to their parents for help whenever they face setbacks, they also start thinking of ways to resolve the problems they face outside the playground on their own.
This encourages your kids to learn and grow on their own, but under your close supervision. This allows you to intervene if you feel like the solutions they have come up with may risk their lives.
Free play encourages kids to develop their own rules and reward themselves whenever they come up with something exceptional. In fact, there is no better way of arousing your kids’ imagination and creativity than taking them to a playground.
3. Teaches Children How to manage Failure and Adversity
Life is full of challenges, and nobody enjoys success all the time. Sometimes, you fail but you have to pick yourself up and try again.
Your kids must grow up knowing that to expect success all the time is unrealistic, and failure is equally essential for human growth. To master a skill, you have to try, and if you fail, you try again.
The key to helping your children learn about failure and how to manage adversity correctly is to put them in challenging situations and support them to overcome the setbacks.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to put them in challenging situations at the playground. They will do it themselves. However, make sure you encourage them when they try something and fail.
Let them know that they can use their failure as a stepping stone to success by learning from it and identifying opportunities to grow and learn.
A good playground teaches kids to persevere and develop resilience. They learn how to push through different scenarios and keep trying, until they achieve desired results.
4. Honesty and Accountability
Sometimes, it is easier to let winning take priority over fun. Most children at some point have confessed that the dodgeball missed them or they weren’t tagged in kickball just to secure victory for their teams. However, that isn’t a good confession because it teaches kids that cheating is okay.
Fortunately, some playground games are designed to breed honesty and accountability among kids.
For instance, playing a game such as the Museum Night Janitor teaches your little ones to be honest since you can’t claim you didn’t move when the janitor catches you moving.
Find a way for children to get tagged back in so that the loss isn’t permanent. With time, they’ll learn to make the right decisions and understand that losing a point or two isn’t worth being dishonest.
5. Leadership Development
In free play, parents and caregivers only serve as supervisors. The role of leadership and control is left to the children. In most cases, the kids will take turns leading the others and divide up the leadership roles amongst themselves.
Whether it means being a referee or establishing fair rules, great leaders are created on the playground.
Playgrounds also encourage leadership development by developing kids’ emotional intelligence and helping them see the importance of communication to social influence.
If children want to play with their peers, they must learn how to communicate their ideas for games and entice other kids to see the contest rules their way. This teaches children how to lead by example and communicate effectively.
Problem-solving is another critical life lesson that is a natural outcome of the wide range of playground activities children engage in. Most of the time, they are forced to research, analyze, communicate, and make critical decisions even when they are playing a relatively simple game.
If the playground has theme-based surfaces or features games that require them to use their imaginative minds to mix colors, numbers, or animals, they transform into little problem-solving masters.
Most parents agree that nothing feels so good as watching their loved ones build upon their playground social, physical, and emotional skills even as they mature through their school years.
Most of them appreciate the role that playgrounds play in imparting complex skills such as problem-solving to their kids.
In an increasingly polarized society, it can be quite hard to teach your children to be inclusive and empathetic towards their peers. However, taking your little ones to a playground can help you teach them about the importance of inclusion and empathy.
Playground supervisors encourage boys and girls to play together and even provide incentives to older kids to include younger kids in their play.
When there are language barriers, you can organize games such as Penalty-Kick Soccer or foursquare that can be played without verbal communication.
Avoid games where some kids may be forced to spend a lot of time “out” watching their counterparts play because they will feel discriminated against.
Instead, encourage games where everyone can participate until the game is over. It is critical to ensure that all kids at the playground feel valued and respected.
8. Positive Reinforcement
Whenever you encourage others, you develop a positive environment around you.
Simple words such as “nice try,” “good work,” and other encouraging remarks can boost your kids’ confidence and encourage him/her to try out different things even when they are not sure they will make it.
On the playground, such positive remarks can significantly impact your kids’ confidence and self-esteem.
Parents and caregivers should always strive to instill positive behavior in their kids through such remarks and games such as traffic jam where the player is expected to accomplish a specific goal.
When you hear the kids encouraging each other during playtime, it is evident that they learned it from adults around them, which is a good thing.
9. Teach Children Independence
Lastly, you can teach your child about independence and being self-sufficient. Children who are engaged in regular playground activity tend to have a more advanced self-directed executive function.
The function usually allows for the initiation of activities, proper organization, adept planning, and the unique ability to switch between different activities and tasks seamlessly. This kind of development is associated with independence.
Children who spend most of their time indoors watching television or playing video games tend to have less finely honed independence levels. Most of the time, they will need parental guidance to complete even simple tasks.
There are many life lessons that kids can learn from different playground equipment and games. With a parent’s help and supervision, regular playtime can help shape a kid into a responsible and accountable adult.
Fortunately, there are many games to engage in at a playground, and each one of them targets a specific area of development. These games are designed to help with a child’s physical, emotional, and social development.
The different playground activities help children develop in areas of perseverance, leadership, teamwork, and build valuable social relationships. As your kids play on different equipment, they build practical life skills that they need to grow into responsible adults.
Let your kids play today for a better tomorrow!