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Playgrounds provide opportunities for children to practice a range of social, emotional, physical and mental skills. By understanding the benefits of adding stimulating and challenging outdoor playground equipment to your playground, you can increase the value of play.

A well-designed playground entices children to play and teaches key developmental skills. Playground activities like swinging, climbing and sliding may appear to be "just fun" on the outside, but initiate important body systems to develop and function properly.

The movements children perform on a playground build both gross and fine motor skills, along with core strength. Playground play also enhances the vestibular system — the sensory system that controls balance and coordination — and develops better body awareness.

Self-led exploration on sensory play panels help children to further develop their senses. Our high-touch panels provide multiple ways to grow cognitive, tactile, sensory/motor, emotional/social and language skills, and invite children to play with each other and use their imaginations.

Music

Children can explore the power or rhythm, experience subtle shifts in tone, and discover the many ways individual sounds can be creatively combined through our collection of chimes, metallophones and drums.

A playground provides the environment needed for children to engage in elements that develop key cognitive, social and physical skills. How children play, or their patterns of play, reinforce the importance of having a mixture of indoor playground equipment that encourages an assortment of play behaviors.

In our whitepaper, Shaped by Play: How Play Types Impact Development, we discuss the findings of an observational study by the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development that looked at how play spaces shape a child's development. The study suggests that different playground components facilitate different patterns of play and therefore reinforce different developmental skills. In the study, some components—like the overhead ladders and more complex rope climbers—seemed to attract older children and facilitate independent gross motor play. Sometimes children engaged in group games (e.g., tag) or simply talked to one another as they played (e.g., while swinging side-by-side). Other times, they participated in collaborative activities like pushing one another on the swings or working together to spin on the OmniSpin® Spinner.

Play involving gross motor skills like custom climbers, rope climbers, overhead ladders, rock areas and slides occupied nearly half of kids' playground time. These are active play elements and in contrast to components that are designed to encourage sensory exploration (e.g., the Smart Play® Motion play structure) or that allow children to sit while someone else operates the equipment (e.g., the swings or We-saw™). When children engage in activities that build and develop gross motor skills they are building upper-body, lower-body and core strength, it can also increase heart rate and improve cardiovascular health, agility, balance, and hand-eye coordination.

Additional Skills Supported by Play Patterns on a Playground

Creativity is encouraged when children use child playground set as the basis for imaginative games. A child's imagination turns a climbing tower into a spaceship or boat. Their play morphs and adjusts to their skill level and they create an obstacle course or climb on the outside of a Netplex® playstructure instead of the inside to increase difficulty.

Collaboration and cooperation can be encouraged by specific components that require children to work together. Slides or our ZipKrooz® zipline structures require turn-taking and communication. Our Global Motion® and seesaws also encourage collaboration because children can operate them as a team, some ride and some push. Sound and movement can even be utilized with Pulse® multisensory playground games to encourage collaboration in an interactive way.

Problem-solving skills can be enhanced with various climbing elements. Children work to figure out how to physically navigate a piece of equipment, especially one that is new to them.

Persistence can be encouraged when a child keeps trying and doesn't give up when experiencing a playground activity that is difficult such as crossing the monkey bars. Once a goal is achieved or a skill mastered, the child feels a huge sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem from working hard to reach a goal.

Playgrounds also offer the opportunity for children of different ages to learn from and help one another. Children will often copy or learn from older children or older children may help younger children—boosting them up while they were climbing, helping them on and off the equipment, encouraging them not to be scared, and offering to help them down from the top of a tall structure. These mixed-age social interactions are an important part of children's social experiences on the playground.

The play patterns of children illustrate the importance of having a variety of school outdoor playground that encourages an assortment of play behaviors. Check out our many options of age-appropriate and challenging equipment or contact a Landscape Structures consultant .

Most adults remember their school recess times with fondness. These opportunities to leave the constraints of the classroom behind and set out for another playground adventure are memories you cherish forever.

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