Written by Debbie Woodliffe, an experienced writer currently based in the UK working for Affinity Agency. Her main goal is to help others learn and develop through well-researched and informative content.
All children love to blow off steam with a trip to the playground. But did you know there are lots of educational, social, physical and cognitive benefits to playing outside too? In this article, we’ll explore:
- The physical & educational benefits of playgrounds
- The social & cognitive benefits of playgrounds
- Which playground activities are great for learning
So, keep reading as we show you how to prevent summer learning loss while keeping the kids busy this summer…
The physical benefits of playgrounds
One of the obvious benefits of playgrounds is their ability to challenge and improve the physicality of a child. Things like the swings and balancing equipment help them use unusual muscles to build their fitness levels and improve their equilibrium, which is always good. Many doctors and physicians have commented on these benefits and mentioned how diverse play spaces and thoughtful design can increase engagement, but did you know that playing outside can also benefit their immune systems?
Playing outside exposes children to more natural environments, and it’s that aspect of playgrounds which is a benefit. It’s all about their microbiomes and letting them come into contact with nature to provoke an immune response and help their bodies be more resilient to germs and bacteria.
Additionally, playing outside can help them sleep better as they have more exposure to daylight to keep their circadian rhythm in check. Our internal body clocks work based on our exposure to light and dark which helps our bodies figure out when to create melatonin (the sleep hormone) and when to send the proper alert signals. Exposing children to bright outdoor light during the day can help reinforce and support this process.
The educational benefits of playgrounds
Early childhood development is rooted in learning through play, and the educational benefits of playgrounds and outdoor play are numerous:
- Some pieces of playground equipment are built to educate, like activity panels and creature magnifier posts.
- They can learn to be brave by trying some new kit.
- They can learn about the new emotions that run through them when playing with the kit, like patience, excitement, nervousness and fear.
There are many more things a child can learn about the world and other people on the playground, but let’s move on to what it can do for their minds, souls and natures.
The social & cognitive benefits of playgrounds
Children face the same mental health blocks and challenges as adults, including introversion, anxiety and issues with their self-esteem. The playground is a great way to help young children work to overcome these issues and develop key skills for their future:
- Observation – Playgrounds are an excellent place for a child to learn how to navigate social situations. They can watch others, learn about social norms and develop their independence.
- Easy socialization – Children can gently start to socialize and talk to other children as they play on the same equipment, celebrate, and learn how to use something together.
- Communication – Children who have trouble communicating might find it easier to develop their skills by interacting with others on the playground in a safe space with no expectations.
- Mental development – Certain equipment can challenge their thought processes and encourage problem-solving and critical thinking.
- Improved self-esteem – By successfully navigating the equipment and making new friends, they could become more confident and have an improved opinion of themselves.
- Increased creativity – The castles and layouts are designed to encourage creative thought.
Which playground activities are great for learning?
All playground equipment has an element of education to it as it helps the child develop muscles, social skills and more, as we’ve mentioned above. However, some are more overtly toward formal education. Here are a few:
- Outdoor Classrooms – These are pergolas, canopies, shades, and pavilions that can be installed in school playgrounds to support outdoor learning. Teachers can use these with their class for lessons about nature and the world, or children can use them alone if there are chalkboards and educational equipment installed nearby, like activity walls.
- Activity panels and walls – These are permanent and weatherproof games like noughts and crosses, mirror panels, map boards, math boards and more which children can use while outside to support their learning.
- Trim trails – These are small adventure trails comprising of things like monkey bars, log climbers, rope bridges and more designed to help children learn to be more agile, brave and coordinated.
- Castles, forts and towers – These are ideal to help children learn to be more creative and boost imaginations. Plus, since they’re large enough for several children, they encourage communication and co-operation.
- Sand and water play pits – These are a great option for sensory play due to the unusual textures and sounds. Children who use these at playtime might become more creative, curious and confident.
From physical to mental, emotional, educational and social, playgrounds offer a wide range of benefits to a child and help give them a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. So, encourage the children around you to be brave at the playground and watch as they develop into confident, smart and strong young people.