Most of us remember our school break times with a lot of fondness. It was always the perfect time to forget about the books and play around with your friends. The time you spent at the school playground ended up forming some of the long-term memories you will cherish forever.
However, things have changed, and modern kids no longer spend a lot of time at the school playground. Most of them are overwhelmed with the abundance of activities and few opportunities to enjoy natural play outside. Television, video games, after-school activities, and pressure from their parents pushing them to concentrate on their studies have led to many playgrounds being underused.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that playgrounds are a vital component in child development. In fact, they are among the few places where kids can express themselves and show their creativity.
This post explores some of the critical benefits of school playgrounds and why child development experts are still advocating for more playground time.
Understanding Physical Activity and Children’s Ability to Learn
Schools are not only tasked to prepare kids for their future careers but also teach them essential life skills, attitudes, and habits that may help them overcome adulthood challenges. To achieve this objective, teachers and learners must think beyond the classroom and incorporate outdoor play into the curriculum.
Engaging in outdoor play provides kids with proper exercise that is good for their physical, emotional, and intellectual development. Studies conducted at the Harvard Medical School show a clear connection between brain development and physical fitness.
Physical activity at a school playground plays a critical role in improving the attention spans of kids, decreases stress and anxiety, and prepares the little ones for classwork. It also improves motivation and helps kids try out things that they may not be inclined to try in a classroom setting.
Physical play also primes the human brain cells to change when new information is introduced while promoting the growth of new brain cells so that the brain can easily absorb and retain new information. This will help the kids to grasp coursework more easily and perform better in their academics.
The Importance of a School Playground
Playing at a school playground may seem like just an ordinary thing, but there is much more to it. When children are physically active at a school playground, they are building critical development skills.
Playgrounds provide them with a perfect opportunity to explore different things and express their creativity without fear of being reprimanded.
The skills they develop while at the playground will ultimately play a critical role in adult competencies, such as working in a team, successfully taking on leadership roles, and making sound decisions in critical moments.
They also learn how to persevere difficult moments and develop creative ideas to get out of sticky situations. Here are other benefits that a school playground offers:
Learning through play
Typically, you can’t have a school playground without play. In simple words, play is a spontaneous activity that kids engage in to enjoy themselves and have fun together.
Experts in different fields, including biology, psychology, education, and even health sciences, have conducted a wide range of studies on the concept of childhood play, and they all agree on one thing- play is an essential part of learning.
When kids play, they develop a wide range of skills, including cognitive abilities, social awareness, motor skills, coordination skills, language skills, teamwork, and much more.
Good play is usually fueled by a kid’s curiosity. As the kid grows, their play activities become more complex. Without good play, a child’s ability to learn and develop is hugely impeded. Just as a good diet and enough sleep are essential to a kid’s health, so is natural play.
Playgrounds offer kids the perfect opportunity to engage in free play. You should keep in mind that there is a significant difference between structured play and free play.
When a kid is at the school playground, the different play structures and spaces provide him/her with the freedom they need to play freely.
They can easily explore their natural tendencies, listen to their instincts, interact with their peers, and awaken their creative instincts.
Social and emotional development
The numerous interactions that happen at a school playground help kids develop emotionally and socially. These interactions usually take many different forms and are uncontrolled. In most cases, children will engage each other when playing group games such as tag or simply talk to each other as they enjoy swinging side-by-side.
Other collaborative tasks they may engage in include pushing one another on the swing sets or working together to rotate playground equipment such as the spinner. There may also be several instances where the older kids help the younger ones navigate playground equipment both physically and psychologically.
As children engage in such activities, they are learning persistence, communication, empathy, sharing with others, helping others, and coping with frustration. They are also learning how to express their ideas freely and the importance of hard work.
These are critical life skills that will help them with their social interaction in and out of school. They will learn how to interact with different people in a wider community and eventually cope with workplace and relationship challenges when they grow up.
Whenever you watch kids at a playground, you may think they are having fun and enjoying themselves. While this is true, one thing you may not know is that they are also getting a workout.
When children get into the habit of working out and see it as a fun experience, it encourages them to remain physically active even as they get older.
School playgrounds are also a vital element of healthy development because it provides your little ones with a perfect place for a full-body workout including exercises that strengthen their torso, legs, arms, and so on.
From the circulatory system to the cardiovascular system, each body system can benefit from regular physical activity. Through physical play, kids can develop motor skills, hand-eye coordination skills, improved flexibility and balance, improved immune system, stronger muscles, and lower risk of obesity and diabetes.
When kids spend quality time at a school playground and test their limits, they learn diverse skills by trying out different playground equipment.
Swings, slides, climbers, and even monkey bars encourage children to develop their strength, agility, balance, coordination, and speed.
School playgrounds provide the perfect off-screen entertainment
Modern kids are addicted to television, iPods, smartphones, and video games. While at home, most of them spend their time indoors playing video games, watching their favorite TV shows, and browsing the internet.
Today, it is not surprising to come across a two or three-year-old kid who can access the App Store or PlayStore, download their favorite games and play them whenever they feel like. This is a worrying trend that is taking root in our communities.
Although there is nothing wrong with kids being technology smart, you need to keep in mind that smartphones and video games won’t teach them everything. These gadgets don’t provide them with real-world experiences they need to develop and mature into responsible adults.
Before you know it, your little one will be in high school copying assignments from his/her friends and doing lots of other funny things because they never had a chance to go out and experience how real childhood feels like.
School playgrounds can help such kids because school may be the only place where they follow instructions and listen to what teachers say. This makes a school playground a perfect place for off-screen entertainment.
School Playgrounds promote imagination and creativity
School children do much more than sliding, swinging, and climbing while at the playground. If you listen to their conversations keenly, you will realize a wide range of other make-believe games taking place. Imaginary play is always at the center stage whenever children are at a playground.
When their imaginative and creative skills are triggered, they become superstars and learn a lot of things. They learn their social roles and put their problem-solving skills to practice. They develop great personalities in the process and become better individuals.
By using their creativity, kids can also try out different ideas and analyze the outcome critically. This helps them develop a strong sense of self-esteem and self-confidence and discover their likes, dislikes, and beliefs.
The whole idea of school playgrounds is meant to make education more fun and enjoyable. They provide kids with the freedom to explore different things and have fun, which enhances their educational experience. In fact, researchers say that school playgrounds significantly impact a child’s ability to learn and develop.
Whether at school or home, the primary objective is to ensure that you never deprive your little ones of a chance to have fun and develop. While it may take time and effort to get them to the playground and watch them play, it is worth it!