Hanging on the Monkey Bars: Benefits of Using the Neighborhood Playground
- To take advantage of all the benefits playgrounds have to offer, try to visit a different location in your neighborhood once a month!
Many children today take part in organized sports – from soccer to basketball to swimming or dance, children who engage in these activities nurture many important motor skills. However, encouraging children to take part in multi-faceted experiences that do not have a specific goal, such as visiting the neighborhood playground, fosters many other important life skills like creativity and socialization.
Here are some great advantages to using the neighborhood playground:
- Agility Development: Up to the age of seven, children are still practicing basic movements, and it is only from this age and older that they are ready to begin developing the athletic movements learned from various sports. So, for children up to the age of seven, the playground is the ideal place to develop and assimilate basic movements.
- Keeping company: For most of the day, children are in school, and, in fact, most of the time are with children their own age. Today, the playground is perhaps the only place where a child can be in the company of other children, who can be of different ages, different ethnicities or come from different socio-economic backgrounds, and play side by side. Whereas on a sports team the child is with the same group of children throughout the year, the social composition in the playground varies every day and every hour, enabling new acquaintances.
- Responsible adult: Although there is always an adult in the background (certainly when it comes to young children) at sports practice and at the playground, the adult coaching the sport instructs the child what to do, and the child follows his or her instructions. At the playground, the child is in control, decides what equipment to go on, and the parent is the supervisor and less the guide.
- Time demarcation: Sports have a defined time, both in terms of the day of the week and time and duration. On the playground, the child can play for 15 minutes or three hours, go once a week or every day depending on what works best for them.
- Goal Setting: The sports team has a pre-determined goal that leads to specific exercises and practicing of skill development to serve the purpose. Activity on the playground lacks a defined goal and the equipment allows children to develop a wide variety of movements.
- Freedom of action: In sports, the child does what he is told. He cannot do something over and over again because that's what he likes to do. In contrast, on the playground, children can express creativity, explore and repeat an activity over and over again, and act at will.
- Economic cost: Let’s face it, being involved in a sport costs money, and the playground is free! To a certain extent, the prevailing perception among the public that if something does not cost money, it is probably not good enough, doesn’t hold true in this case.
Despite the advantages of playgrounds, there are two points that should be adopted from playing a sport:
- In cases where the child has difficulty in a particular area – whether it is strengthening specific muscles, organizing movement or social skills – this goal should be placed before going to the playground, and parents should choose an appropriate activity for this purpose.
- Just like sports practice, parents should put walking to the playground on a weekly schedule to create permanence and perseverance. Otherwise it can be lowered on the priority list.