kids sitting in garden crawl tunnel

Benefits of Monkey Bars for Children

Monkey Bars

Many of us have fond memories of playing on the monkey bars as children, but are monkey bars beneficial beyond having fun? The simple answer is yes. Monkey bars positively affect several areas of child development. They provide an excellent physical workout, though they benefit children socially and emotionally as well.

We’ll take a look at monkey bars benefits, how they can be used for physical development, other playground equipment that encourages active play, and where you can get your own set of monkey bars for your playground.

What Are Monkey Bars?

Little boy swinging on monkey bars

Monkey bars, also known as a jungle gym, look like a horizontal ladder made of metal or wood bars. The structure the bars form makes a great place for children to hang from and play on.

The first jungle gym was invented and patented in 1920 by Chicago lawyer Sebastian Hinton. Hinton drew inspiration from the climbable bamboo structures his father used to build for him as a child growing up in Japan. His intent with the structure was to create a place where kids could explore their curiosity and move in three-dimensional space. Since their inception, monkey bars have grown in popularity and become a staple in modern playgrounds.

Monkey bars are typically associated with the public playgrounds found in parks. Other places monkey bars are useful include schools, churches, daycares, and businesses that have play areas for children.

Benefits of Monkey Bars for Kids

Playground with monkey bars

Kids are always on the go, so it’s important to find activities that help them release some of their energy while improving their other skills. Monkey bars benefit children physically, socially, and emotionally. Consider the following benefits kids can gain from using this playground equipment:

1. Improves Socialization Skills

The nature of playground equipment encourages children to play together fairly. For example, monkey bars encourage children to take turns because it’s unsafe for multiple people to swing across the monkey bars at the same time. If there is a long line for the monkey bars children learn they must accommodate others, even if they want the same thing they do. Oftentimes, children will remind one another of rules, which allows them to learn from their peers.

Children learn to be patient while they are waiting for their turn on the monkey bars. Patience is a tricky skill for some children to master, so having the extra practice while they play is beneficial. Children also learn impatience is a trait that is not well tolerated. For example, if a child becomes pushy because they are at the back of the line for the monkey bars their peers may not want to be around them.

You might even notice children encouraging one another to cross the monkey bars. By encouraging one another, children learn in real-time how beneficial positive support can be when they are trying to complete a task. At the monkey bars children have the opportunity to both encourage others and be encouraged. In other words, children learn to treat others in positive ways because of the positive treatment they receive and by seeing the effect that positive treatment has on others.

Playing at the monkey bars also gives children a chance to learn about the positive effects of kindness. If one child feels discouraged about lacking the strength to make it across the monkey bars they may be more likely to try the monkey bars again if one of their peers helps them and encourages them to try again.

Some kids might gravitate toward the monkey bars more than other kids. These kids will find one another and bond over their shared love for this activity. This bond could remain superficial or could turn into a deeper bond of friendship. Either way, these kids will learn that doing activities they love with others can help them form new relationships and deepen existing relationships.

All in all, playing at the monkey bars helps children develop social skills that will serve them well as they keep growing and reach adulthood.

2. Builds Confidence

Monkey bars can help children build up confidence they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. How exactly does playing on monkey bars build a child’s confidence? Monkey bars help:

How monkey bars help build confidence

  • Build relationships with peers: Some kids find it more difficult than others to form relationships with their peers. It may be easier for these kids to approach others when they can share in the same activity. For example, if a child is going across the monkey bars a shy child might feel more comfortable talking to the other child while they wait for their turn on the monkey bars. Kids who are at the monkey bars together might encourage one another to make it across, or they might talk about the shared experience in general.
  • Give space to make decisions: Unstructured activities allow children to explore what skills they might have or what things they might enjoy doing. For example, after spending a long time playing on the monkey bars a child might feel they made a good choice because their arms are strong enough to carry them all the way across the monkey bars. This child will then feel more confident in exploring things they are drawn to and exploring what skills they might possess.
  • Safely encourage risk-taking: If you’ve ever felt proud of yourself for doing something you were afraid to do, you likely learned to associate pride with doing daunting things by taking risks in a safe environment as a child. For example, oftentimes, adults supervise children when they’re on playground equipment, so even if a child cannot make it fully across the monkey bars the adult can help them down. That being said, if a child is scared of swinging across the monkey bars but feels motivated to do it because of a teacher standing nearby, they’ll likely experience a sense of pride once they start swinging.
  • Manage personal disappointment: Not being able to do something and having to keep trying a task are common occurrences in life. Oftentimes, you learn to tolerate these occurrences in childhood. For example, if a child needs an adult’s help to make it across the monkey bars when their friends can make it across without help, they might feel disappointed or frustrated. However, they might also learn that if they keep trying to get across the monkey bars and are successful, they will feel a sense of triumph. Understanding that you must try over and over to get good at something is crucial, as it applies to all life skills. Also, understanding that failure can eventually lead to success will help children meet new challenges with a more positive attitude.
  • Enhance life skills: Monkey bars help children develop their hand-eye coordination, though the benefits of playing on playground equipment are not all physical. Playing on playground equipment such as monkey bars helps to improve a child’s cognitive functioning. Children who get enough physical activity throughout the day show signs of improved focus, which can lead to better academic performance.

It’s important for children to start building their confidence early on in life. The benefits of being confident include decreased levels of anxiety, boosted motivation, improved relationships, a stronger sense of self, and an increase in resilience. Monkey bars can be a helpful tool in a child’s confidence-boosting arsenal.

3. Allows Stretching

playground with monkey bars view from above

Children grow rapidly, and with this rapid growth comes growing pains. Kids may be able to reduce growing pains by stretching, which they can achieve while hanging from monkey bars. Stretching has these other benefits, as well:

  • Relaxes muscles
  • Maintains range of motion
  • Helps prevent issues with balance
  • Helps prevent muscular and joint injuries
  • Encourages flexibility
  • Enhances performance in sports

If a child’s body is relaxed, they are more likely to experience a relaxed state of mind. Also, if they are feeling strong and flexible, this may improve their confidence when it comes to their body.

4. Fights Obesity

Playing on the monkey bars is an activity that is regularly available to children, and it counts as exercise. In other words, monkey bars encourage children to regularly exercise, which ultimately helps fight childhood obesity. Negative consequences of obesity include a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, breathing problems, cancer, mental illness, chronic pain, gallbladder disease, and osteoarthritis.

The following are other benefits of regular physical activity for kids:

  • Improves sleep
  • Improves endurance
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves strength
  • Decreases risk of being overweight
  • Decreases risk for diabetes
  • Improves mental health

5. Improves Posture

children swinging on monkey bars

Playing on the monkey bars improves a child’s posture because it stretches out and strengthens the spine. Good posture is important for a child’s physical health and confidence. The following are other benefits of good posture:

  • Relieves muscle strain
  • Decreases chances of headaches, neck aches and back aches
  • Increases energy levels
  • Improves confidence
  • Decreases risk of arthritis
  • Decreases risk of joint degeneration
  • Improves core strength

6. Encourages Creativity

little girl looking through telescope

The unique landscape of a playground encourages children to create imaginative games. For example, children playing on the monkey bars might pretend they are in a jungle and if they cross the monkey bars they’ll find a rare jewel. Imaginative play is extremely beneficial to children in the following ways:

  • Enhances storytelling skills
  • Improves social skills
  • Increases empathy for others
  • Enhances language skills
  • Improves problem-solving skills
  • Improves self-regulation skills

7. Relieves Stress

Stress is a part of everyone’s life. Even children experience stress, whether that stress is related to relationships, schoolwork, health problems, or problems at home. Playing on monkey bars relieves stress in children because it is fun and physically challenging.

Having fun as a child often includes laughing. Laughter relieves mental stress, and it also has positive effects on the body. Laughter stimulates the organs, and better functioning organs means better overall health. Laughter also creates a sense of relaxation by starting up the stress response process and then stopping it. It relaxes the muscles, which leads to an overall relaxed feeling. Laughing also boosts the immune system, relieves pain, and improves mood.

Physical activity reduces stress through several different avenues. For example, physical activity reduces stress by improving moods, releasing endorphins, creating a meditative effect, and reducing the negative effects of stress.

Using Monkey Bars for Exercise

When a child swings from one monkey bar to the next, they are working on their upper-body strength. However, when they pull themselves up by reaching out for the next bar and lower themselves down once they’ve reached that bar, more than just their upper body is working hard. The physical motions that are involved in crossing a set of monkey bars engage several different groups of muscles. The following muscles get a workout on monkey bars.

Climbing Playground Structure

  • Latissimus muscles: These muscles are in your back. They help you to breathe, and they stabilize your back. These muscles also allow you to extend your shoulders. This motion is important during swimming and activities that require you to pull yourself up with your arms, like pulling oneself up to grab the next monkey bar.
  • Shoulder muscles: These muscles play a huge role in establishing flexibility and a large range of motion of your arms. These muscles allow the swinging motion of the arms when going across monkey bars.
  • Biceps: Biceps are important muscles because they allow your elbows to flex and your forearms to supinate. Supination refers to the turning of the forearm so the palm is facing upward. The bicep muscles allow the flexing of the elbows and the occasional supination of the forearm when pulling up to grab the next monkey bar.
  • Abdominal muscles: Abdominal muscles stabilize the trunk of your body, hold your organs in place, protect your spine, and allow movement of the trunk of your body. As you swing forward to grab the next monkey bar, the core has to stabilize your body so you don’t move too much from side to side.

Swinging from monkey bars also improves a child’s posture by strengthening their spine. The following are benefits of a strong spine:

  • Flexibility in the core and lower body
  • Proper functioning of the organs
  • Proper functioning of the nerves
  • Good posture

Other Playground Equipment That Encourages Active Play

Active play isn’t just limited to monkey bars. A lot of playground equipment encourages active play, which helps improve a child’s physical abilities and health. The great thing about playgrounds is that they often have a wide range of equipment that targets the strength-building of different body parts. A child’s body is growing fast and learning habits, so it’s important for children to have bodies that are well-balanced in their strength.

Consider the following equipment categories and the muscles they build:

Equipment That Builds Upper-Body Strength

The following equipment builds a child’s upper-body strength:

  • Monkey bars: Monkey bars allow children to improve the flexibility and strength of their upper arms as they swing from one bar to the next. Monkey bars also work to strengthen the hand’s grip.
  • Parallel bars: Parallel bars are a set of evenly spaced bars that allow children to use their whole weight as they swing across them. These bars are typically waist height, but different heights are available.
  • Rock walls: Rock walls allow children to safely strengthen their climbing abilities as they use their upper body to scale the walls and their hands and feet to grip perches.

Equipment That Improves Balance

This equipment can aid in the development and improvement of balance:

  • Floating balance beam: The floating balance beam is a narrow structure that a child can walk across while keeping their balance.
  • The cape horn: The cape horn is a beam as well, but it floats, which makes it less stable. This makes it more difficult for a child to keep their balance on a cape horn, which hones the skill and requires adequate core strength.
  • The Klondike: The Klondike is made of multiple beams that are on an incline. This tests a child’s ability to balance, but in a different capacity.

Equipment That Builds Lower-Body Strength

Kids can build lower-body strength with this equipment:

  • The log slice climber: The log slice climber is a spiral staircase that allows children to get to the play decks while simultaneously building their agility, balance and lower-body strength.
  • The X climber: The X climber combines a hanging rope bridge with an overhead handhold for a creative climbing experience. It helps kids practice balancing and strengthens their lower-body muscles.
  • Arch ladder: The arch ladder is a vertical ladder that is bent in an arch shape. Children can climb it and build their upper-body and lower-body strength.
  • Vertical ladder: The vertical ladder is the same as an arch ladder but without an arch. Vertical ladders look like your typical ladder, but they are wider. This is another piece of equipment that allows children to work on their climbing skills.

Equipment That Improves Core Strength

This equipment helps kids improve their core strength:

  • The challenge ladder: This is a horizontal ladder that allows children to swing across each rung all while stabilizing their core. This equipment is similar to monkey bars but the handholds take different shapes other than standard bars.
  • The leg lift loop: The left lift loop involves the child holding onto a loop that is above their head while they lift their legs to a 90-degree angle. This lifting will activate the child’s core.

When children feel strong, they may feel more confident and empowered by the knowledge of all the wonderful things their bodies can accomplish.

Get Your Own Set of Monkey Bars From Little Tikes Commercial

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At Little Tikes Commercial, we provide playground equipment to schools, churches, daycares, parks, homeowner associations, and landscape architects. Learn more about the markets we serve. Why get your monkey bars from Little Tikes Commercial? We are committed to safe and sustainable practices.

Check out our monkey bars  to consider how they might fit in your play space. Fill out a form to get a quote if you’re interested in our monkey bars or any of our other playground components.