What are the benefits of taking your child to the park?
The big, bright red apple…spinning, spinning, spinning, that’s the memory I remember most about my favourite playground as a child. Can you think back to yours? And how often do you take your kids to the playgrounds around your neighbourhood?
In today’s society there are lots of indoor and screen-based games that children are eager to readily play, like iPads, iPhones and computer games. And, of course, they help keep kids occupied when you need to get important jobs done.
While it takes a bit more effort to take your child to the park, but there are lots of benefits. Here are just a few:
1. Making new friends
Children love meeting other children at the park, whether they play beside them or start to interact with them, playing at the park is a very natural way for children to initiate and develop friendships. They have to learn to take turns, share and respect other children needs. Some features of the playground might lead to imaginary play like a sandpit or fort.
2. Health benefits
Children are going to get lots of exposure to Vitamin D by playing outside in the fresh air. There are also so many cardiovascular benefits! The wide range of equipment placed in parks such as the monkey bars, slides, swings, and climbing frames have the children in constant motion. They chase each other around and race between pieces of equipment eager to have their next turn. This helps build their cardiovascular fitness and strength which will lead to an overall increase in their physical fitness. The best thing about this outside activity is the children feel like they’re playing rather than exercising!
3. Gross motor skills
Playground equipment helps children develop their gross motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body. Children have to jump, climb, crawl, swing, push, pull and hang on to the monkey bars on a playground. For example, the monkey bars strengthen those hands and finger muscles that are used for grasping and handwriting and then there are the various ladders and beams that help provide opportunities for improving balance and coordination. On playground equipment children can work on eye-hand co-ordination, core strength, balance, and developing arm and leg strength.
4. Sensory benefits
The park is full of many sensory experiences. When a child uses the playground equipment they will be stimulating a multitude of senses. The swings will provide lots of input to the vestibular system, whilst climbing and heavy work activities will stimulate the proprioceptive systems. The tactile system will be stimulated by the many natural ‘touch’ objects found in the park environment (eg. leaves, bark, sand, dirt and mud).
5. Developing self-regulation
A playground provides kids with the opportunity to be able to regulate their own bodies, they can let off steam or recharge their batteries. They might enjoy swinging to the sky on the swings, or going rapidly around and around on the merry-go-round, but then they’ll be happy to slow their bodies down and do some climbing. Different children can tolerate different amounts of sensory input. Some will last on the swings for two minutes while others will be able to swing for ten minutes. A playground helps a child learn about what sensations make them feel good inside. What makes them feel “fast” and what “slows” them down.
Kids and playground equipment are a perfect match for growth and development! In Australia we have such beautiful weather, children can go to the park all year around. With daylight savings, children get to continue to play well into the early evening. So take your kids to the nearest park, encourage them to play and explore the equipment and maybe you might jump on the swing or go down the slide and bring back some of your childhood memories!
Here is a great website to help you find your nearest park: www.playgroundfinder.com