Playgrounds: Much More than Jungle Gyms
We absolutely love summer here at Pathways.org because it means we can finally get outside to play! It’s warmer outside, the days are longer, the sky shines brighter… who couldn’t love this? Summer mixes the perfect ingredients together for a great trip to the playground!
Now, I think we can all agree that playgrounds are fun, but did you know they’re actually good for kids too? A trip to the playground offers many developmental benefits such as:
Physical – Climbing, swinging, jumping, and racing are all fun ways to practice gross motor skills.
Sensory – From swings to the sandbox there are so many great sensory experiences at the playground. Even walking on different textures like woodchips, rubber, and the metal equipment is a sensory experience.
Social – A lot of social learning happens on the playground because that’s unstructured time kids have to interact with their peers. Following rules, negotiating, and other communication skills are developed by playing at the playground.
Executive Function – Learning the rules of a games and using them to play with other kids involves working memory, a key executive function skill.
Play – This one may seem obvious, but there are a lot of play skills to be learned at the park or playground. If there’s a quiet day at the playground, that can still be an opportunity for independent play. This can be unstructured time for your child to play on their own and use their imagination.
Keep up with your child’s developmental milestones here!
When you visit the playground encourage your child to try new things, be creative, and interact with peers. If you aren’t sure what to do we put together some ideas to help you get started:
- Ladders aren’t just for going up. Going down ladders is an excellent way to practice coordination. Just be sure to spot your child from behind as they’re climbing both up and down ladders!
- Bring your imagination and put it to work! Let your little one set the scene. Is the jungle gym a pirate ship? Are the woodchips quick sand or hot lava that can’t be touched? You never know what the scene will be; let your child take the lead and keep changing it up to keep their attention.
- Climbing walls can be re-imagined. There’s no need to just go up and down. Suggest your child tries going across from one side to the other or have them start in one corner of the climbing wall and finish in the opposite diagonal corner. Give them a new challenge by giving them a target to reach, for example tell them to touch the purple hand grip. But be sure to consider your child’s age and ability to determine how far or high they can go on the wall.
- Add a new twist to some old favorites! Play some of your child’s favorite games, like tag, four square or hop scotch, at the playground to mix things up. Any game you play outside in the yard can also be a playground game.
- Swings are a great way to develop your child’s movement and balance. Tire swings are great because it lets kids swing in all different directions. Start slowly so they have a chance to get used to the new movement and start changing up the direction from there.
- Bring playground accessories with you. Bean bags can be pushed down slides or tossed down to someone from higher equipment (just be sure to keep your child far away from the edge). They’re a fun way to develop hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills for your little one. You could also hide the bean bags around the playground and make a scavenger hunt. Bubbles are also a great accessory to bring for fun at the playground. Stand on a higher piece of equipment and blow bubbles for your little one to pop! Bubbles are a great tool for communication development and are also good for practicing fine motor skills and finger isolation.
Let’s all agree that playgrounds are a ton of fun. It’s just a fact. There are slides, swings, jungle gyms, monkey bars, climbing walls, sandboxes, seesaws and more! We played with everything at the playground and if you add the ideas we had to your playground visits, the fun will flow! Even try your own, new ways to play, the possibilities are endless!