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The Importance of School Playgrounds: 15 Benefits


The Importance of School Playgrounds

Playgrounds play an essential role in fostering play and collaboration. In schools, children often need to cooperate in a certain way to promote a healthy learning environment. However, research supports that recess and play are essential factors in helping children build cognitive and social skills. Playgrounds are essentials for schools to help foster play and community building. Continue reading to discover 15 benefits of investing in a school playground.

The History of School Playgrounds

Playgrounds for schools have a rich history in the United States. Parks have long had a place in public spaces as foundational spaces for socializing and community building. In the past, people even had picnics and visited with each other in the neighborhood cemeteries. Plus, before Industrialization, humans lived a more pastoral life on the whole, with many people living on plots of land where their children would play.

Industrialization changed many things about human existence, including outdoor socialization. With the beginning of larger farms, families who relied on their small farms lost business and had to move to the cities. This move happened so quickly, and so many people moved to the cities that the quality of living conditions decreased rapidly. As a result, welfare organizations decided to begin a movement to provide spaces for children to play and enjoy the outdoors outside of their cramped and often unsanitary living quarters.

The playground movement gained traction beginning in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1800s. The motivations behind this movement were to provide areas where children could practice becoming responsible citizens. These early playground designers took inspiration from German outdoor gymnasiums, which aimed to promote fitness and lower diseases in children by placing play equipment near schools.

Outdoor gymnasiums and sand gardens later developed into more dynamic apparatuses that swung and spun. This early playground equipment featured steel pipes, chains and ladders, many of which would be considered extremely dangerous by today’s standards.

In the later 20th century, child psychologists, doctors and other health specialists began to think about how playgrounds could assist in children’s social, emotional and physical development. They found that certain playground elements were able to excite the fascination and imagination of children, such as fantasy elements and interesting features. Additionally, there began to be a larger focus on safety, so equipment began to have more rounded edges and soft ground cover to prevent injuries.

Types of Playgrounds

Types of Playgrounds

There are hundreds of different types of playground configurations, so narrowing playgrounds into a few different types isn’t easy. However, there are a few specific playground categories to recognize when considering different types of school playgrounds.

The first relevant category refers to age range. While most people think of playgrounds as intergenerational spaces, specific safety concerns exist for children of different ages. As a result, most safety considerations take a few different age groups into account:

  • Early childhood 5 and under: Children under 5 have unique needs when it comes to playground equipment. These children are still developing their abilities to run, jump and play, so this playground equipment has special considerations. Factors like height and other components help make sure kids are safe while allowing them to participate in fun and engaging activities.
  • School-age 5 to 12: Kids in the 5 to 12 range have developed most of their physical capacities, so they’re able to run and jump with relative ease without assistance. These playgrounds may have more daring climbing elements and higher heights to present fun challenges for these children. These playgrounds may pose certain risks for children under 5 years old, which is why having a separate play space for younger children is crucial.
  • School-age 9 and up: Since some older kids may not necessarily want to play on the playground anymore, they can play on fitness equipment. These features are designed to provide spaces for guided stretches and bodyweight activities that build strength and can encourage collaboration.

Another essential consideration when it comes to playgrounds is the designated theme. Some of the best playgrounds for kids have a special theme that can inspire creativity and imagination. There are a variety of exciting and fun themes you can organize your playground around:

  • Natural: A natural theme plays on elements from the natural world, using trees, rocks and even dinosaur bones as inspiration for playground equipment. These nature-themed playgrounds often feature rope courses and boulders to climb on. Kids can pretend they’re exploring a magical forest or discovering dinosaurs on a digging expedition.
  • Nautical: Preparing for a long sea voyage? Children will love playing on nautical-themed playground equipment and pretending to travel the seas with components like steering wheels, portholes and even a whole ship.
  • Modern: A modern playground features more geometric patterns and shapes, with play cubes and netting. These playgrounds offer dynamic and unique climbing elements and spinning structures to engage and excite children.

15 Benefits of School Playgrounds

There are many reasons a school or daycare playground is a great idea. From building valuable social skills to building foundational muscle groups, school playgrounds can give students numerous ways to grow into healthy young adults.

Discover why you should invest in a school playground with these 15 wonderful ways installing a playground can benefit the children in your school community.

1. Build Motor Skills

When kids begin walking, they are able to experience an entirely new world. As they develop their coordination, they’re able to take more risks and branch out on their own. Motor skills, also known as coordination, are essential for children’s development. With the different activities and elements of a playground, kids can learn to develop new motor skills.

For example, some playgrounds may feature climbing elements, which help children build their arm and leg strength as well as balance and coordination. Additionally, swings are a beloved element of many playgrounds, and these features help children develop balance and coordination to get the swing in motion. Swings also help tune fine motor skills as kids grip the ropes or chains and hang on while swinging in the air.

2. Promote Physical Health

Many studies have documented the numerous benefits of exercise for children’s health. Playgrounds incorporate many different physical activities that stimulate children’s imagination in a way that gets them moving. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that physical exercise has a host of benefits for children, including:

  • Improving cardiorespiratory health.
  • Building strong bones.
  • Increasing muscle development.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress.

Playing on a playground can help build healthy habits in children because it promotes physical activity and physical health.

Little girl on playground climber

3. Encourage Outdoor Play

The outdoors are host to enormous opportunities for children to play and grow. The benefits of outdoor play are many, including building a connection to the environment and stimulating the senses in a brand new way. Having school playground equipment outside allows for free play in the outdoors, where kids might encounter and explore new things like plants and insects. Outdoor play can help children discover their place in the natural world and form a foundation for important academic concepts, such as biology, geology and physics.

4. Enhance Creativity

School playgrounds can enhance kids ‘ creativity with a whole new world open to them. Playground equipment has multiple elements that can stimulate imaginative and creative play, like slides, climbing equipment and swings. Kids can play common playground favorites, like king of the castle and hide and seek, or invent their own games to play.

Kids on tire swing

Some playgrounds have different themes that can help draw out children’s natural creativity and imagination. Themes for playgrounds include modern, natural, nautical and even urban.

5. Build Social Skills

While there’s nothing like some parent-child time at the playground, the importance of playgrounds also resides in how they can build social skills with their peers. Meeting and playing with other children on a playground helps build social skills that are essential for childhood development. Some of these skills include:

  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Sharing
  • Empathy
  • Respecting boundaries
  • Patience

When kids can practice communicating and cooperating with others through play, it can help them develop abilities that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Playgrounds truly form the foundation of a healthy and balanced social life.

Children playing on playground

6. Increase Academic Performance

Another benefit of outdoor play for children includes increasing academic performance. Playgrounds include challenging elements that build skill and confidence, which can then translate to school performance. When kids are accustomed to trying new things and challenging themselves, they become more willing to exert themselves in school.

Adventures on a playground can build children’s tolerance for difficulty and failure while promoting endurance and persistence in the face of difficulties. These skills are invaluable when learning new concepts in school. In fact, studies show that outdoor play on playgrounds can help build cognitive skills, especially in STEM subjects.

7. Provide Opportunities for Outdoor Learning

School playgrounds provide opportunities for outdoor learning. Many different school curriculum incorporates the outdoors in their lesson plans, especially science. Using the playground during class can help reinforce lessons in science, such as studying the different animals and plants native to the area. Teachers can set a scavenger hunt outside to find different species of plants or encourage students to create their own “habitats” in a glass jar.

If there’s space, the playground area can also host a small outdoor garden where children can learn about growing food and the benefits of a healthy diet. Furthermore, subjects like math, art and even music can host lessons in the playground to provide a refreshing and stimulating environment for learning.

8. Promote Empathy

Some neighborhoods have great parks and playgrounds within walking distance while others may not. Having a playground at the school promotes inclusion and provides a place for children from all walks of life to enjoy the benefits of play. At the playground, kids engage with different children and can learn about others’ experiences. These skills will help build empathy and encourage them to relate to others as they continue to grow.

inclusive playground

9. Get Kids Away From Technology

In today’s world, finding a space without a screen can be difficult, if not impossible. The beauty of an outdoor playground is the ability to get away from technology and the distractions of screens. There are enormous benefits to getting children away from their screens, tablets and televisions, including the following:

  • Better sleep: Activities that children perform on screens, such as playing games and watching shows, stimulate the brain. While some of these games or shows may have educational content, this kind of brain stimulation can impact sleep. Getting children outdoors and reducing this screen time can result in better sleep.
  • Improved behavior: Researchers have also found that kids who spend less time on their screens tend to show improved behavior outcomes. Having an outlet like physical activity can help kids behave better.
  • Healthier habits: Another study found that children who spend less time on screens tended to have a lower level of unhealthy weight gain.

Benefits to getting children away from their screens

10. Build Self-Esteem

One of the most positive school playground benefits is that it can build self-esteem. There are many elements of a playground that challenge children, both physically and mentally. While it’s important to have age-appropriate playground equipment so it’s as safe as possible, incorporating challenging elements is also essential. When kids are able to overcome these challenges, it builds their confidence and self-esteem.

Challenges like climbing walls, slides and balance elements help build kids’ confidence in their abilities. These feelings can transfer over into other areas of their lives, such as school. Trying new things on the playground can make them more willing to learn new things and persist in their schoolwork, even when it’s difficult.

11. Provide Opportunity for Safe Risk-Taking

Similarly to how playgrounds allow children to challenge themselves, they also provide opportunities for safe risk-taking. While it’s crucial children feel safe and protected, providing areas in which they can safely take risks is important to stretch their comfort zone.

Activities like climbing up a wall or hanging from a swinging bar can be challenging for kids, but they can also help to build their tolerance for trying new things they may find scary. It can also build relationships with others through taking risks together.

12. Engage Multiple Senses

In school, teachers work hard to engage students. However, being outside can engage senses that are not practical to engage in a classroom setting. Playing outside can build children’s connection to their senses — new sights, smells, textures and sounds can help build nerve connections in the brain. These connections will help build children’s sensory awareness, in addition to helping them explore and grow in their curiosity.

Playgrounds for schools help children engage all their senses, which extends their learning outside the classroom. Through playing outside, they can explore leaves, grass, flowers — and even insects if they’re adventurous.

Little girl on sensory playground

13. Promote Community Awareness

When playing on the playground, kids often have to work together to figure out tasks. They also have opportunity to cooperate with each other during games and speak with other kids they may not see every day. Playgrounds promote community awareness by helping children build bonds with each other.

Additionally, while cooperating with other children at a playground, kids can build their leadership and communication skills, which are essential to participating in the community as responsible citizens.

14. Stimulate the Immune System

One surprising benefit of investing in a school playground is that it can help support and grow children’s immune systems. Outdoor playgrounds that incorporate biodiverse elements can significantly affect children’s immune systems. According to studies, playgrounds with natural elements and diverse greenery can improve children’s immune systems in a month.

When children have stronger immune systems, they can fight off infections and bacteria more easily. While it may seem counter-intuitive that an outdoor playground can help children avoid getting sick, getting exposed to various germs in the outdoors teaches their immune system how to fight off sickness more quickly.

Little boy going down slide

15. Help Children Confront Emotions

Lots of things happen on the playground. Kids can practice their creativity, let their imagination run wild and work with others. However, they might also experience emotions that aren’t necessarily positive — disagreements, jealousy, conflict and anger. When children play with each other, they might not have the same ideas about how they play or what activities they participate in.

When these interactions become tense, it may be tempting to intervene. While it’s important to ensure everyone is safe and okay, navigating tough situations help children learn how to cope and deal with negative emotions. For example, if there is a disagreement about who goes next in line for the swings, they learn how to collaborate with each other to find a solution. If emotions get high, a responsible adult can step in and coach them to find a solution to the issue.

Choosing Playworld

The importance of playgrounds resides in their ability to generate innovative and authentic play. At Playworld, our goal is to foster an environment of inclusivity and community that reaches every child. We want our optimism for the future and our passion for enriching children’s lives through play to come through in every structure we create. That’s why we’re guided by five core beliefs:

  • Inclusive design: We want every child to be able to enjoy the magic and wonder of playgrounds, which is why our core mission involves ensuring we create inclusive features that promote safety and fun for all.
  • Craftsmanship: We take pride in each structure we create. Every one of our playgrounds is built with passion and pride based on our history of high-quality manufacturing.
  • Innovative leadership: Playworld is an industry leader with a legacy of innovative design and solutions that reinvent play.
  • Communities of the future: Our goal to enrich children’s lives through outdoor play comes from our deep investment and care for communities and how we can continue to build up communities for the future.
  • Unity: We strongly believe that one of the best ways to unite humans is through play. By fostering a space that promotes play, we strive to create a positive environment.

Contact Us to Learn More

Playworld has the knowledge and expertise to help you find or build a playground that meets your school’s needs. Having a school playground can help foster an environment of community building and play that enriches the experiences of all children. At Playworld, we’ve dedicated ourselves to creating playgrounds that are fun and safe for every child to enjoy. For more information, reach out to us today!

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