BY TRACY BLASZKOW MAR 2016
PLAYGROUNDS TEACH CRITICAL SKILLS THAT EVERY GROWING CHILD NEEDS
Playing outside is not just about letting off steam. It is a vital part of childhood that helps children develop physical strength, coordination, and balance. It can also provide opportunities for children to learn and develop:
Social Skills – When they play with other children, they learn to communicate, share, collaborate, aide, and empathize with others.
Imagination and Creativity – Outside play is often open-ended, and children need to be creative about what and how games are played.
Problem-solving Skills – As kids assess risks, tackle new challenges, and persevere—they develop confidence and new skills.
Sense of Self – As they begin to master new skills and play with other children, they improve their competence in their own physical and social abilities.
Sense of Connection – to nature, to peers, and to their local community.
Self Care Skills – Managing physical and social challenges helps children to learn about keeping themselves safe.
To support these broad learning outcomes, play spaces should include areas for active, free, quiet, social, imaginative, creative, exploratory, and natural play. By inviting children to use their own initiative, explore possibilities, and take chances, we can provide them with opportunities to learn. Remember your own childhood—where was your favorite place to play?
Active & Free Play Areas
Fixed equipment offering swinging, sliding, climbing, hanging, balancing, and jumping options fit in the active area. Boulders, rocks, and logs can also be used for climbing, balancing, and jumping. Free play areas include open grass spaces and slopes for running, informal ball games, cartwheels, somersaults, and rolling. Do you remember how much fun it was to run down a grassy slope with your arms outstretched, feeling the wind in your face?
Quiet areas allow an individual child or small group of children to read; talk; play a special game; interact with nature; or quietly observe a play group before attempting to join in. This is why playgrounds utilize landscaped plantings. It creates semi-enclosed spaces with shelter and seating. Many children are hesitant to join large groups of busy, active children or enter large open play areas.
Social Play Areas
Include space or structures that support social play. These encourage language and cooperation skills as children role-play and learn to take turns and share. Including suggestive structures rather than obvious shops, cubbies, etc., encourages creativity and imagination to use them in a variety of ways.
Imaginative, Creative, Exploratory, & Natural Play Areas
These are often the most neglected areas in children’s play spaces. They can be inexpensive and offer a wide variety of play options. Trees, shrubs, and ground covers can provide different scents, textures, shapes, colors, and sound, and help stimulate imaginative and creative play. They can also encourage bugs, birds, and other wildlife into the environment and add to the diversity and learning opportunities. Boulders, rocks, and logs can be used as play settings and for seating. Wind chimes/socks or other musical elements add further diversity. #
Reprinted with permission of www.kidsafewa.com.au.