Playgrounds at schools, local parks and other facilities provide children with opportunities to be physically active while also having fun, but their benefits go beyond that. They also offer children opportunities to build important developmental skills, such as fine motor skills and social skills.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are those that involve coordinating different structures within the body, such as the bones and muscles, to perform precise movements. Examples include picking up objects, writing with a pen, using scissors for cutting shapes and stacking items. Fine motor skills affect different aspects of children’s lives, including the ability to speak clearly and eat food properly. They also play a role in academic achievement by ensuring that children are able to perform certain tasks, such as holding a pen for writing or typing on a keyboard.
In order to develop fine motor skills, children need adequate muscle strength, awareness, the ability to coordinate and the ability to plan. Playgrounds offer equipment that gives children a chance to work on each of these, which allows them to build fine motor skills. Playground equipment that involves grasping objects helps children develop these skills. For example, grasping the rungs of a ladder while climbing, grasping the ropes while swinging and grasping bars while climbing on monkey bars all offer a chance for children to improve fine motor skills.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are those that are associated with the use of larger muscles and movements that involve larger parts of the body, such as the legs. Examples of these skills include climbing, walking and jumping. Gross motor skills also have an impact on children’s ability to perform well in school. Children need to develop these skills in order to carry heavy book bags and sit upright at their desks while paying attention.
Playgrounds give children a chance to work on developing physical and cognitive factors that are needed for gross motor skill development, such as muscle tone, muscle strength, balance and coordination, sensory processing and motor planning. Any playground equipment that requires children to move their arms, legs or torso provides them with opportunities to work on gross motor skills. Children are able to build and improve these skills while climbing stairs leading to slides, pumping their legs while using swings, climbing rock walls, and crawling through tubes.
Social skills are a crucial part of children’s development. Having strong social skills involves learning how to regulate emotions, make friends and resolve conflicts. Emotional regulation includes impulse control, such as waiting patiently while taking turns on playground equipment. Making friends encourages children to develop empathy with others and work on cooperating with them while engaging in playground activities. Conflict resolution helps children develop emotional maturity and problem-solving skills when dealing with disagreements with others.
Using a playground during recess at school or while spending time at a local park provides children with opportunities to build social skills. Whether children are swinging, climbing on monkey bars or going down slides, they have plenty of chances to interact with other children. Some of these interactions involve playing together, such as swinging next to each other or climbing on monkey bars together, while others involve cooperating, learning to take turns and learning to resolve conflicts. For example, a child can learn when it is appropriate to give others a chance to use playground equipment rather than staying on it themselves for long periods of time.
These are just a few of the developmental skills that playgrounds can help children build and improve. Children have a chance to work on other skills, such as spatial awareness, when they play on playgrounds as well. If you are interested in exploring your playground equipment options for your school or community, please contact American Parks Company.