It’s our childrens’ job to play. In the first few years of their lives, kids are building the foundations for learning, for life skills, for social skills, and for how to keep their bodies healthy and active.
The process of play helps to develop gross and fine motor skills, social skills, personal awareness and language and promotes motor planning, learning, creativity, problem-solving and emotional wellbeing.
That’s a whole lot of hard work! Thank goodness we can make their “office environment” a FUN place for our children to get all this vital work done!
Our children use their bodies to explore their world, and in doing so, they are learning all about what their bodies are able to do, building strength and confidence along the way. By providing them with different environments to play, you are opening up a whole world of fun for exploration and learning.
The benefits of taking your children to the park are huge. And if you are lucky enough to have different parks to choose from, the benefits of park-hopping are endless.
Here are some examples of playground equipment and what they are helping your little one to achieve:
Your little is developing strength and coordination of the two sides of their body when they climb on jungle gyms. Climbing is a bit like “crawling on steroids” because they are having to move in a crawling pattern up against gravity and thus doing strength training in most of their major muscle groups.
To climb, children need to develop a good sense of body awareness – where are all my body parts and what can I use them for? Climbing also helps children with direction – up / down, left /right.
When climbing on a new piece of equipment, children use motor planning and problem-solving to figure out how to manoeuvre themselves on it – how am I going to climb up, and where should my foot go next?
Giving kids different obstacle courses to climb over – tyres, blocks, beams, planks, ramps, nets, and climbing walls – this gives children a chance to become really skilled at climbing.
When swinging on a swing, your vestibular system within your inner ear will tell you if you are moving forwards or backwards, if you are tilting or if you are spinning around. While moving, your child is learning about speed and direction, and if they are actively trying to swing themselves, they are working hard on coordinating their body parts in a rhythm.
There are so many different types of swings to try. As your little one’s core stability strengthens, you can move from a more secure bucket or tyre swing with rails to less restricting wooden swings, platform swings, swings where you lie on your tummy, swings that you stand on and rope swings with knots.
Slides are usually a firm favourite at the park. What a rush to be able to choose to let go and slide to the bottom where someone you love is waiting to catch you until you are ready to land on your feet on your own.
Sliding down is fun, but remember that climbing up a slide is also excellent antigravity work to build muscle strength.
Playing on overhead equipment, like monkey bars, help your child develop both fine and gross motor skills. Your little one’s handgrip is strengthening as he learns to hold himself up on the bars, and upper body strength is building as he swings from bar to bar, while also working on motor planning, coordination and balance as he has to shift his weight from one side to the other.
To slide down a fireman’s pole takes some bravery. Your child has to grip the pole with both hands and legs, use their whole body strength to hold one and overcome their fear of heights, as they slowly judge how to release their grip slightly so that they can control how fast or slow they slide down the pole.
When looking to purchase a jungle gym for your garden, you can get wholly overwhelmed for choice. Just remember that the basics are the best starting points:
From there, monkey bars, a rope climb and a fireman’s pole are always great add-ons. The great thing about monkey bars is that you can hang different equipment from them – trapeze swings or rings, and even balls on strings for eye-hand coordination activities.
The goal is to provide our kids with fun opportunities to use their bodies and learn about the world around them. They have a lot to accomplish and this time goes by in a flash!
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