little boy crawling across playground steppers

The Importance of Playgrounds & Play For Child Development

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.

However, today’s children are overwhelmed with an abundance of activities and fewer opportunities to enjoy outside play. Video games, TV, after-school activities and an increasing focus on academics have led to disappearing playgrounds and playtime. This reduction in free play can negatively impact the development of children.

Playgrounds are essential safe spaces where children can be themselves and express their fun-loving nature while developing crucial cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills. In this post, we’ll explore why more and more child development experts are advocating for more playgrounds and the increasing importance of parks and playgrounds.

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Important Playground Benefits for Children

Playgrounds are safe spaces where kids develop crucial physical, social, emotional and imaginative skills necessary to gain self-confidence, improve coordination, and advance critical thinking capabilities. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the importance of playgrounds in child development.

Learning Through Play

You can’t have a playground without play. To put it simply, play is a spontaneous activity children engage in to have fun. Experts in a variety of fields including psychology, biology, health and education have conducted a multitude of studies on the concept of childhood play all proving the same critical fact — play is an essential aspect of learning.

When children play, they gain a huge variety of skills:

  • Coordination
  • Motor skills
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Social awareness
  • Language
  • And so much more

A child’s curiosity fuels play. As a child grows, their play becomes more complex. Without being able to play, children’s ability to develop and learn is stunted. Just as eating and sleeping are essential to a child’s health, so too is play.

Playgrounds are the perfect place for children to engage in free play. Structured play — including sports or organized activities — differs from free play. When children are on the playground, different structures and spaces give them the freedom to choose how they want to play. They can explore their own natural tendencies, interact with a broader range of age groups and awaken their creative instincts.

Children climbing on playground

Physical Benefits of Play

The CDC recommends children should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day — and the playground is the perfect place to get this done. Popular playground equipment like slidesswingsclimbers and other equipment helps kids develop their agility, speed, strength, balance and coordination. When kids see exercising as an enjoyable experience that builds strength, it encourages them to remain active as they get older.

Playgrounds are a vital aspect of healthy development, providing a place for children to get a full-body workout, including exercises that strengthen their arms, legs, torso and so on. From the cardiovascular system to the circulatory system, each is nurtured and benefited through vigorous play. Children see a vast variety of physical benefits through playground play:

  • Improved flexibility and balance
  • Development of overall motor skills, dexterity and hand-eye coordination
  • Opportunities to learn how to control their movement
  • Improved instincts
  • Promotion of healthy heart and lung function
  • Stronger muscles
  • Improved immune function
  • Lowered risk of obesity and diabetes

When children spend time on the playgrounds, they learn diverse skills and test their physical limits by trying out various playground equipment.

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Children's social development

Social Development

Playgrounds are not generally a solitary activity. Whenever you visit a playground, other kids are bound to be there. When children meet other kids on the playground, it teaches them important lessons about social norms and how to interact with others, all of which will come in handy in adult relationships and their future workplace. Learned social skills include:

  • Getting along
  • Agreeing on rules and cooperating
  • Taking turns and patience
  • Resolving conflict
  • Overcoming shyness
  • Sharing and friendship
  • Accepting diversity as they meet children of all ages and backgrounds

Children in a group smiling

Emotional Impact

The physical and social benefits of play are more obvious. However, there are also subtle emotional changes in your child’s wellbeing that may not be as recognizable, yet are still vitally important.

Physical activity and unstructured playtime on a playground serve as a healthy way to help children deal with their emotions and reduce stress levels. Not only can play serve as a distraction from their problems, but happiness is a natural byproduct of outdoor activities.

Children experience many other positive emotional impacts when they’re allowed the freedom to play on a playground. Playground play benefits children because it:

  • Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem as they master challenging playground structures
  • Allows them to retain a sense of control unavailable in many other parts of their lives
  • Lowers tendencies to misbehave or bully, as kids’ attention is diverted with more positive activities
  • Teaches them how to deal with challenges in a healthy way

Girls using their imagination in Mini City house

Promotes Imagination

Children do more than slide, swing and climb when on a playground. Just listen to the conversations, and you’ll realize a variety of other make-believe games are taking place. Imaginary play is a given whenever kids are on the playground.

When children use their imagination and play make-believe, it teaches them social roles. Creativity also fosters a child’s ability to problem-solve and develop their personality. By using their imagination, kids can try out different ideas and identities. This helps them construct a strong sense of self, as they discover their likes, dislikes and beliefs. Although developing self-identity will continue throughout their young life, the foundation begins with these innocent make-believe activities on the playground.

Makes Education More Fun

When a child’s school has a playground, these short breaks allow kids freedom and fun, which, in turn, makes the educational experience more fun. In fact, researchers now understand the importance of playgrounds in schools and how they have an important impact on a child’s ability to learn and develop.

Opportunities for play also affect children’s attendance rate at the primary school level. When a child knows there will be opportunities to let loose, they often find it easier to listen and learn in the classroom environment.

Contact Little Tikes Commercial to Learn About Our High-Quality Playground Equipment

When you choose Little Tikes Commercial, we understand the importance of playgrounds in child development. For over four decades, we’ve encouraged children to explore their world and learn fundamental lessons through adventure and imagination.

Whether you’re looking to replace the playground at your school or want to add some play structures to your community park, we’re committed to delivering innovative designs to promote the value of outdoor play and fun for the children you serve.

We invite you to contact us today to see what we can do to assist you with your playground project.

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