Every day, children are learning and developing as they play, and playgrounds are a vital part of how a child becomes acclimatised within their surroundings. Climbing structures help with confronting dangers, while the interaction involved with a play environment helps to develop social skills. Clearly, playing outside helps children grow and develop.
Outdoor playground equipment is becoming a growing trend on the market, a result of the benefits these types of playgrounds serve to younger children who are still developing. Put simply, they blend seamlessly into different environments – from National Trust parks to schoolyards. Together with Playground Equipment Suppliers, we explore exactly how playing outdoors can help a child learn.
Play and versatility
Playground equipment can often hinder a child’s development when it is man-made; or, when it does not conform to the natural landscapes that surround it. There is a finite number of ways for children to play creatively. When children become bored, accidents are more likely to occur and as such, providing versatility in play is key (Frost 1985, cited in Striniste & Moore, 1989).
Outdoor equipment that appeals to the eye
Within structures that challenge them, research suggests that natural playgrounds make children feel most comfortable, as they are within a more natural environment. This helps engender imagination and encourages children to interact with the playground. Again, boredom can cause accidents in playgrounds – so visual appeal is also vital. Installing natural play elements was also found to improve children’s spatial cognitive awareness, socialisation and fantasy play skills (Herrington & Studmann, 1998).
Where natural landscapes are present, natural playgrounds are more suitable and more at home in national parks and other areas.
Developing new skills
So that children are interacting with new materials and new environments, sand, logs, pebbles, and other moveable objects should also be incorporated into the playground’s design. These can be used by children to learn construction skills. Natural play encourages creativity through the interaction of these elements. These construction projects, such as digging channels in sand or creating dams in water channels with pebbles, provide satisfaction to children.
When children are exposed to materials and equipment that allow them to learn by using their hands, research suggests that children can work cooperatively. Research has shown that this helps with problem solving and creative thinking. A further study by Hestenes, Shin & DeBord (2007) found that in playgrounds that used natural elements, children were far more likely to use constructive play over functional play.
Increasing fitness levels through outdoor play
When surfaces are uneven, and play becomes more imaginative over many different surfaces, a child’s fitness is tested and improved when navigating natural playground design. Whether that’s climbing a wall, jumping over barriers, climbing over log structures or building their construction skills, a child’s physical fitness will improve.
Developing new social skills
Outdoor playgrounds can also offer more for children when compared to indoor playgrounds, because of the variety of outdoor equipment available on the market. These larger projects generally encourage more sociodramatic play themes, as children tackle bigger obstacles in groups (Davies, 1996).
New cognitive abilities
Divergent thinking techniques, as well as pretend play, are always improved when outdoor equipment is utilised properly for children. Creativity varies as a result of playground design – more pretend play and creativity occurs as a result of contemporary natural playgrounds compared to traditional designs.