One of the greatest benefits I see for our kids in our move to California is that we spend a LOT of time on playgrounds. The Bay Area’s famous weather makes it easy for kids to play outside every single day without needing to bundle up. We are also spending a lot of time at playgrounds because we no longer have a yard, so we have to leave the house if I want my kids to spend time running around outdoors. We stay after school nearly every day to play on the playground there, and drive to playgrounds most weekends. Children need playgrounds – especially in modern society, where we want to let children play but we also make rules, rules, and more rules for our kids. Here are a few reasons I think playgrounds are something towns and schools should invest in:
PLAYGROUNDS EMBRACE CHILDHOOD
Playgrounds are the one man-made community space that truly belongs to children, and they are the one space that I see parents take their children with no expectations. You take your kids to school to learn academics; you take them to gymnastics or soccer to learn a sport. It is only on playgrounds that I see parents consistently giving their children free reign to play without evaluating their behavior. Playgrounds are also, not surprisingly, the one space where I regularly find adults reminiscing positively about their childhoods.
PLAYGROUNDS ALLOW CHILDREN TO PRACTICE RISK TAKING
Modern society does not like risks, and even playgrounds have rules – but rules on playgrounds are fewer than most places. Playgrounds are a space where we are comfortable letting our kids practice risk taking, from swinging ever higher on the swings to climbing up rock walls.
PLAYGROUNDS PROMOTE ACTIVE PLAY
My kids love to sit quietly and draw and read, but a playground gets even my children running and climbing! I love having a space that is designedforkids, where they can run, climb, slide, swing, and play as loudly as they like. The playful, non-judgmental atmosphere of playgrounds also makes it an ideal space for kids to practice new skills, from climbing up a rock wall to swinging across monkey bars.
By promoting play and physical activity, playgrounds help kids develop independence! At home, two-year-old Anna likes to ask me to carry her up and down stairs; something that is legitimately difficult for her due to some physical delays. But when I take her to the playground, she forgets the difficulty in her excitement over climbing stairs to speed down a slide!
PLAYGROUNDS PROMOTE IMAGINATIVE PLAY
I love listening in on the scenarios kids create on playgrounds – from pirate ships to castles and space shuttles! Children are experts at transforming slides into escape hatches and climbing walls into Mount Everest.
PLAYGROUNDS PROMOTE COOPERATIVE PLAY
Playgrounds often encourage kids to cooperate, from waiting patiently for a turn on the slide to agreeing on what they are going to play and the different roles they will each be assigned. Playgrounds are also a nice neutral space for kids to make friends without worrying about household rules or sharing toys.
PLAYGROUNDS BRING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER
As a mom, I also appreciate the neutral space of a playground as a meeting place! On a playground, nobody cares what you ate for breakfast or what your house looks like, and there is plenty of time to chat while kids run and play!