Well-designed playgrounds develop important skills that contribute to successful adult life

Landscape Structures creates inclusive play environments that welcome children and families of all abilities
By: | Issue: February, 2018 | Thought Leadership
January 2, 2018

How does children’s play behavior on school and community playgrounds contribute to physical, social, emotional and cognitive development?

Physical activity offers rich opportunities for different types of movement patterns. It helps children with balance and coordination, muscle strength and endurance, and sensory motor development. When children are engaged in social, imaginary play, they are creating rules and roles for games and they are also developing skills like empathy and negotiation. There is also an understanding of cause and effect of activities and outcomes. Playgrounds are unique in that they are some of the last remaining environments that offer children these opportunities.

How does play behavior prepare children for successful adult life?

Behaviors that are learned early in children’s lives become foundational. Beyond the physical, play builds leadership skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, courage, and confidence. These are things that children practice and learn through play, and they are key skills that can enable success as youngsters grow into adults.

Talk about the growing infringement on children’s play opportunities.

We did a study where we reached out to parents, and more than 75 percent of respondents agreed that children need an adequate amount of free playtime. Unfortunately, more than half of the respondents also said they felt their children had fewer opportunities to play today, as opposed to 20 years ago. Most parents reported their children get one hour or less of free, unstructured playtime each day. We know on a national level that 40 percent of schools are reducing recess time. There are, however, a few glimmers of hope. Chicago Public Schools passed a policy that requires recess to be part of the daily curriculum.

What can well-designed playgrounds do for children?

Playgrounds should be designed for age and developmental appropriateness and inclusion. Playgrounds need different types of activities scaled appropriately that offer age-appropriate levels of risk. It is important for children to evaluate and overcome risk, which contributes to ongoing mastery and development. Inclusion offers opportunities for social engagement, focusing on communication, taking turns and managing impulse control. The playground needs to be accessible. That might be a system of ramps that allow access for a child who uses some type of mobility aid or offers access for adults. Another concept is providing a range and variety of activities such as various spinners scaled at different heights. This allows all children to find their just-right fit. Spinning develops the vestibular system, which is essential for motor coordination and movement. Offering different types of activities helps build a solid foundation for reasoning, mathematics, reading skills and emotional self-regulation.

For more information, visit playlsi.com