Every kid loves spending time on the playground. It allows them to explore, use their imagination, and experience the freedom of unstructured play. As a parent, you probably love the playground because it helps your little one expel some extra energy!
But, there’s more to the playground than just, well … play! Children can learn several critical lifelong skills simply by doing what comes naturally during playtime.
What are those skills, and how can you encourage your child to keep building them while doing what they love on the playground?
Even if it seems like your child is playing freely and without limitations on the playground, there are still rules they have to follow. Some rules might be ones you set before you get there, such as which pieces of equipment they can use, how they have to stay where you can see them, and that they shouldn’t talk to strangers.
Other rules are things they’ll learn naturally as they play. They’ll learn how to wait their turn to go down the slide, or how to stand in a line. They can also learn not to jump off high surfaces or climb on slippery equipment.
Rules provide a sense of order and can help to prepare your child for the real world. We all know rules don’t go away as adults, so letting your child learn about them now will make it easier to understand how important they are as they grow.
There’s a sense of responsibility that comes from exploring the playground. For example, your child might have to learn how to navigate a climbing wall by using flexible thinking and then help others do the same thing. That’s just one area of responsibility that will grow naturally through play.
Your child will also learn that they’re responsible for things like
- Their own well-being
- Their safety
- How they treat others
- How well they respect boundaries
Responsibility is an important developmental skill to learn from an early age. Kids are often quick to place the blame on others when something goes wrong, or hesitant to take responsibility for their own actions. Playground exploration helps to eliminate that quickly, and it will carry over into other aspects of their life.
Responsibility is something that can be explained but not necessarily taught. Letting your child understand their responsibilities through play and socialization with other children is a great way to foster more responsible adults. It will benefit their career, their relationships, and their self-esteem.
Everyone experiences stress – even kids. In fact, about 35% of American children deal with stress-related health problems. Letting your child spend time outside and encouraging them to play is a great way for them to combat stress, but taking them to the playground can take things one step further.
They’ll learn to relax their muscles, socialize with others, and move their bodies – these are natural stress-reducers. When they’re tired out from a day of play, they’re also more likely to get better sleep at night, which can help to reduce stress, as well. By teaching your child how to manage their stress levels now, they’re more likely to cope with stress in healthier ways in the future.
As you can see, there’s more to the playground than you may have thought! So, the next time your child asks to go outside and swing, slide, or climb, remember these critical skills, and how they might impact your little one for years to come. Not only will they develop and grow now, but encouraging them to be outside and stay active can help to foster healthy habits for them into adulthood.