Kiddie playgrounds have come a long way in the last few years. Initially, a playground was well equipped if it had a swing, a merry-go-round and a jungle gym. Now, play has expanded to include not just motor skills but also intellectual stimulation. Playground equipment incorporates colours, numbers, and lettering to encourage children to learn while they play.
Equipment can be divided into five or six broad categories. Each segment targets a particular aspect of play. Of course the main aim of messing around on the playground will never really change. Its goal is to teach children how to interact with others in a cordial manner and resolve interpersonal conflict. Above all, it’s about getting them to burn off that irrepressible childhood energy so that they can settle down for class, or better yet, take a nap.
On that note, younger children are best served with playground equipment that inspires dynamic play. The idea, as we’ve mentioned before, is to keep them constantly moving. The physical exertion exercises their muscles and burns off their little bundles of energy. Most traditional toys and games fit into this category, such as swings, slides, see-saws, pendulum-based games, spinning equipment, and mini playground zip liners. The speed and motion gives kids a healthy buzz, gets their blood flowing, and pumps their circulation. These games use minimal thought and strategy. It’s all about carefree spontaneity and fun.
Older kids need movement as well, but as they approach teenage years, they begin to get self-conscious. They are increasingly aware of their bodies and how they carry themselves. So while they might want to let loose, they are far more deliberate in how they handle themselves. They are focused on how they stand, where they sit, and the exact ways in which their bodies respond to stimuli. They acquire preening behaviour, moving their bodies in ways that flatter their assets and hide their flaws. At this stage, equipment that playfully keeps them fit becomes quite popular. Trampolines, urban fitness kits, sports equipment, obstacle courses, or even life size chess boards are bound to be a hit.
Back to the little ones, exploration is always a hit. At home, kids are always being reminded to be careful, don’t touch this, stay away from that, don’t get yourself dirty. A playground full of sights, sounds, and textures to freely explore can seem like Valhalla. Kids can be safely allowed to mess around in the forbidden fruit of sand, water, hoses, tunnels, all kinds of play options that stimulate a child’s senses.
For kids that may be learning disabled, there are safer ways to keep them busy, such as brightly coloured mechanical mazes. And for the child prodigies, musical toys or DIY construction kits can exercise their scientific and artistic muscles in a more physical way than legos. The joy of discovery has led to some of humanity’s greatest achievements, and it’s a gift we should give children in abundance.
A time-tested way to combine motor skills with hand-eye coordination is to use rope. Whether kids are climbing a rope wall, diving into simulated spider webs, or swinging like Tarzan, rope is a great way to develop physical and mental skills. It will improve children’s aim and sharpen their focus. Rope climbs are a great way to get over fears like heights, develop confidence, improve coordination, and boost spatial awareness. It gives your child a sense of achievement that is hard to gain in any other way.
Some children are more cognitive than others. They prefer to spend time inside their own heads, exploring their imagination. Kids like this might prefer to sit in a corner and read a book, but there’s a sneaky way to get them into the great outdoors. Theme-based equipment can encourage them to physically explore the worlds they have built inside their minds.
Playground towers that are designed in the form of crow’s nests, moats, castles, forests, or city scapes will delight these children. Instead of having your basic jungle gym, they now have their very own camp site. They can create little adventures in their minds, fighting off the dragon in the tower, or laying traps for tigers on the bush.
If they feel so inclined, they can play out their ‘work day’ in town and imitate the grown-ups in their lives. They can be anything they want! A fireman, a toll booth operator, a doctor, a chef, or whatever delights their little hearts. They have physical props to push their games forward, so in this way, they exercise both their bodies and their minds.
In every group of kids, there are a few restless adventurers who can’t sit still. They can’t be occupied with a single activity for very long, and will be seen flitting from one toy to another, from one group to another. It seems the synapses of these kids fire up three times faster than anyone else’s. For this kind of child, multiple stimulation is needed, and there are play kits like that as well. Multiplay systems incorporate many different types of activity so that even the most excitable child can find something to keep them happy.
As you decide on the type of tools you want in your play space, think about the needs of each individual child and make a strategic plan that has them all covered.