The Benefits of Playgrounds for Children Aged 0-5
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The Benefits of Playgrounds for Children Aged 0-5

Views: 3     Author: 翁梦云     Publish Time: 2018-12-20      Origin: Site


Play and Free Play What is play? Play is simply having fun, the spontaneous activity of children. Play encompasses many things—it can be done with the body (running, jumping, dancing); the mind (fantasy play); props (building blocks, pushing a toy); and words (jokes, singing). Play is fueled by curiosity and is driven by it. Play begins simple and grows more complex as the child grows. Playgrounds provide an opportunity for free play. Free play differs from the structured play of recess or organized sports and games. Playground free play allows children to play any way they choose, supported by a wide range of structures and spaces. 

Brain Development Research on brain development shows that the most crucial time for a child’s development is in the earliest years.2 The act of play by a child stimulates brain development and function3 and has a key role in building the foundation, organization, and capabilities of the brain.4 It is very important for children to have many regular opportunities for a variety of gross motor activities.5 Children that do not get crucial interaction in their first six years will face a lifetime of limited brain power.6 That said, how does play directly correlate to brain development? The stages of development of the brain mirror the stages of play in early childhood. Play speeds the development of corresponding portions of the brain with patterned activities, and each stage of play promotes the growth of that portion of the brain and lays the neural connections and speeds the cerebellar synapses. 7 To help visualize what is meant by laying “neural connections” and speeding “cerebellar synapses” in relation to play, try to imagine the connections of the brain as an overgrown, difficult-to-walk path. The more a child plays (using sensory impressions and motor-activities) the more the child, in their brain, walks that path. The more the path is walked by engaging in free play, the more defined the path becomes. Soon the path becomes a dirt road, then a street, and finally a highway. Through constant use, by repetitive play activities, going from A to B in the brain becomes very rapid—an easily negotiated highway. The child who does not stimulate those neural connections and cerebellar synapses, who sits on the couch watching TV all day, still has those connections but they remain only a path and not a highway. Playground play structures help facilitate a child’s cognitive development during free play because toddlers are at a sensor-motor stage of development and they learn through their sensory impression and motor activities and the interaction of the two.8 Playgrounds provide a space for children to enrich, build, and expand their cognitive development through play.

Motor-skills Research indicates that children with poorly developed motor-skills by age five will likely never develop efficient motor-skills.9 Outdoor play appears to be an important environment to foster these skills. Playgrounds offer infants and toddlers a base for simple motor and exercise play and provide an environment to foster these skills. Preschoolers are highly motivated to challenge and 3 refine their motor skills on more difficult play equipment.10 Playgrounds provide critical space for children to be given opportunities to move and be encouraged to advance into the next stage of development,11 because through play they can develop advanced fine motor and manipulation skills.12 The lack of physical fitness among children poses a danger to their health as adults, and playground equipment is one avenue to promote physical activity of children.13 Outdoor play on playgrounds can provide different opportunities to stimulate age appropriate physical development: tactile panels promote manipulation and coordination; bridges and ramps promote loco motor skills; and slides and swings promote balance and coordination. Depending on the child’s developmental stage, these and other play components help the child encode and decode movement, inhibit reflexes and control movements (reaching, grasping, releasing), and progress from elementary stages to motor stage movements (running, hopping, dynamic and static balancing, axial movement)

Language Development, Intelligence, and Social Skills Play is the primary vehicle for development of the imagination, intelligence, and language.15 The playground maximizes opportunities to engage in a greater amount of play with their peers.16 The interaction with their peers allows children to express ideas and feelings and develop oral skills.17 Play structures promote social play because they provide children with places to congregate and communicate. Through the act of playing they learn social and cultural rules, and experiment with various emotions, and explore the socially shared system of symbols.18 By playing they also learn by physical and mental trial-and-error, through interaction with their environment and peers, the ability to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant information.19 Simply put, a shortage of playgrounds can add to children’s passivity.20 An example of how free play in playgrounds aids the development of social skills can be seen in the spontaneous creation of ‘games.’ Whether it be a game of tag or fantasy play that makes a playground structure into castle with the children assigning themselves specific roles (guard, king, queen, etc.), peer interaction is required to establish the ‘rules of the game’ and play begins. Children learn to negotiate, compromise, work together, and also to control themselves and tolerate their frustrations in a social setting because without abiding by the invented ‘rules’ the child cannot continue to play successfully with their peers. The modular structures that link different playground elements together provide opportunities for socialization by providing different kinds of interaction—nooks for single children; retreats for two or three; places for one on one adult/child interactions; and places for small groups. 

Summary Child’s play is not just all fun and games. The act of play is a crucial component in the successful growth of the brain, body, and intellect. Playing promotes brain development and helps lay the neural grid for a successful mind through repetitive play actions that reinforce that grid. Playing promotes physical success by allowing the child to explore, test, and expand the limits of the growing body. And playing promotes social, intellectual, and oral skills by allowing the child to interact with their peers and environment.

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 Ms. Katie Zhang
 Yangwan Industrial Area,Qiaoxia Town,Yongjia County, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China (Mainland)


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