It’s officially summer!! And summer means getting outdoors and having fun! Take the playground challenge with us this summer and get out and let your children enjoy all the physical and mental benefits of play! When was the last time you went to the playground with your children? I’ll admit that we don’t go as often as we would like, but this past week we’ve visited all three playgrounds in our town and had a ball. We’ve been reminded of the importance of playground play and we’ll be changing our routine and making trips to the playground a priority once again.
Playgrounds have changed since I was a child. No longer are they confined to see-saws, swings, and slides. Now they are composed of climbing walls, sounds, and even zips lines! There are playgrounds that are created with special needs in mind for those who are not as mobile, and many playgrounds now have their own themes!
I remember going to the playgrounds when I was a child in Canada. We had our own swings and slide in our backyard, but it was still fun to go to a public playground and use the swings that swung higher, the slide that was taller, and the climbing and balancing equipment that spurned our imaginations into great escapes of flying into outer space.
Why go to the playground?
Things are much different here in Northern Ireland. The school grounds are locked up and can’t be used except by students during recess (and it breaks my heart that even at recess most kids just stand around and the new play equipment is left neglected). The size of homes and yards are much smaller, and if you live in a city you may not even have any outdoor space at all attached to your home. These differences make public playgrounds that much more important here.
A trip to the playground isn’t just or ‘fun,’ there are many other benefits to children as well. Playground fun helps inner ear development (which is important for balance), it helps children learn to play on their own, as well as collaborate with others. It helps brain development, social skills, and to build self-esteem and self-confidence. All of these things are very important skills to have and will serve you for the rest of your life.
Why do we like the playground?
One of the things we love most about visiting the playground are the challenges it gives us all!
Tristan’s ongoing challenge is to learn to balance and be confident. He’s never liked to feel unbalanced. He’s fallen off the swings when he was younger and he doesn’t like to get back on. This is our current challenge. To try to get Tristan to learn that it’s fun to swing! I’m hoping that by watching the joy in his little sister’s face that he’ll soon be ‘back on the horse.’
On Thursday Tristan climbed this piece of equipment and tripped coming down. He hopped right back up again, and we’ll use this experience to help him face the swing the next time we visit.
Over the past year Tristan has gained self-confidence and is enjoying climbing more than he ever has before! And he’s getting the hang of the balance beam, as well. I love it when he tries something new and has success!
Kallista, being the youngest, sees Tristan doing something and immediately wants to be just as good as her big brother. For if Tristan can do something, so should she. She’s more daring. And if Tristan sees something that Kallista can do, he pushes himself so that he won’t be outdone by his little sister. They keep each other on their toes and the friendly competition between them can certainly be used for positively!
Kallista is learning to hop and skip with more speed, and the playground is a great place to practice for her.
For me, the challenge is to know that my children are growing and learning how far their abilities will take them. I must learn to let them climb higher, and not to be so afraid that they’ll fall while learning to balance.
What are some of the challenges of visiting a playground?
Unfortunately, sometimes just visiting the playground can present its own challenges. There are many reasons why we don’t visit as often as we’d like:
- The weather here isn’t always cooperative.
- We’re in a rush to get somewhere.
- We’re in a rush to get home with arms filled with bags.
- The playground has been filled with graphic graffiti that I don’t want to have to explain to the kids.
- Damage has been done to the equipment and it’s not safe.
- There are older kids there who are acting in an intimidating way or using foul language.
If you don’t live within walking distance to a playground, there can be other reasons not to visit as well.
How to overcome these playground challenges?
After this past week of reconnecting with our local playgrounds and realising just how much we’ve missed our time there, here are some of the ways we plan to face these challenges:
- Visit the playground that has equipment that is usable, even in wet weather.
- Plan a playground stop into our day. Leave the house earlier so we can visit before the kids are tired out from walking.
- We can make a trip to the playground a destination of its own instead of just stopping there on our way to or from somewhere.
- We can visit a playground that is in good repair and without graffiti. We’re lucky to have more than one within walking distance.
- We can call the council when we see that equipment needs to be repaired so that it can be fixed.
- To avoid the older kids we’ll go earlier in the day.
We’ll be making a conscious effort to leave the house earlier, or take the time to stop on the way home so the children can stop at a playground, have a run around and challenge themselves to some good, healthy fun!
Your Playground Challenge…
What is your favourite thing about going to the playground with your children? Now we challenge you to make the playground a regular place to have fun this summer! Leave the cell phones at home, pack a snack and some water (and sunscreen if needed) and head out to your nearest and/or favourite playground. Share your fun photos with us on Facebook, too!
This post is sponsored by the Voice of Play, an educational group by the non-profit International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA), which advocates for outdoor play for children, based on scientific evidence of the benefits of play.