Benefits of physical play

Why Physical Play Is Awesome

Physical play constitutes activities where a child swings, runs, spins, jumps, and climbs.  Most people know this type of play is important for children because it makes them physically fit and keeps them healthier. Specifically, when participating in physical play activities, children are increasing muscle strength and endurance, strengthening their bones and boosting their metabolism.  They are also working on motor fitness skills such as agility, speed power, balance and coordination.aeroglider-red

What might be news to many is that the benefits of physical play go much further than just building muscles and burning calories; it helps develop the brain, regulate anxiety and teaches various important skills.

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When a child explores a playground it isn’t just about having fun:

  • Different parts of the brain are stimulated simultaneously when spinning; this builds new and more developed pathways throughout the brain—pathways that improve learning potential, spatial awareness and more
  • All of the sensory input of sliding helps develop a child’s ability to motor plan
  • Rocking and swinging have a calming effect and can help regulate anxiety
  • When climbing children practice important cognitive skills such as memory, problem solving and visualization
  • Jumping helps children to recognize where their body is in space
  • Walking and running provides opportunities to practice and master skills vial for independent movement

The benefits of physical play are so crucial to a child’s development that it is imperative playground designers ensure children of all abilities have the opportunity to spin, slide, run (or roll), swing, climb, and jump.  Playworld Systems’ Inclusive Play Design Guide is chocked full of ideas for selecting playground equipment and making adaptations that help a designer meet this goal.

Here are a few ideas to incorporate in your playground design:

  • Select different pieces of equipment that allow users lay or sit on them in addition to standing
  • Choose pieces of equipment that offer more supports—handrails, back supports, etc.
  • Include a variety of commercial playground equipment in both type and size; for example with swings, include a toddler swing, a tire swing, a belt swing, and an accessible swing seat
  • Place some of the equipment such as a balance beam or crawl tunnel as close to the ground as possible
  • Provide extra room around equipment so that children using wheelchairs can easily access the equipment
  • Include pieces of equipment where a child who uses a wheelchair does not need to leave their chair to participate in the play.  For example the Aeroglider by Playworld Systems.

There are many more ideas included in the Inclusive Play Design Guide.  You can download a free copy of the Guide at  In the next couple of weeks, PlaybyPlayworld will explore the benefits of other types of play that occur on the playground.

What ideas do you have to ensure that all children have the chance to play on a playground?

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