Many parents are not aware of this, but when children engage in play at playgrounds and in nature, they are building foundational skills for academic success. Playing outdoors is FUN for kids! It provides opportunities to make friends, build confidence, and encourage mastery of new skills. Below are some of the physical benefits to playing at the playground.
- Improves vestibular and proprioceptive sense. The vestibular system helps us maintain balance and tells us whether we are at rest or in motion, how fast we are moving, and in what direction. Proprioceptive or the “body position” sense provides our bodies with information through the muscles, joints, and ligaments. Together these two systems keep us “grounded.” They keep us from bumping into things, knocking things over, judging how roughly or softly we handle things, and more.
- Improves fine motor and gross motor skills. Activities like pulling on ropes, climbing, and hanging on monkey bars help to strengthen the core muscles, improve upper body control and hand strength, and improve coordination of large muscle groups. Upper body strength and postural control allows for stability of arms and hands, which leads to the development of skills essential for fine motor activities in class such as writing without fatigue, postural control–the ability to sit up in class without slouching–and attending.
- Improves eye-hand coordination. Eye-hand coordination is the coordinated movement of eye (visual input) with hand movement (motor response) in order to execute a task. Eye-hand coordination affects one’s ability to write, copy from the board, draw, color, catch a ball, cut, thread a needle, and more.
- Improves sense of body rhythm and timing. In order to swing on a swing or on the monkey bar, one has to have proper timing and body rhythm; well-coordinated, whole-body movement–along with all of the above skills. Body rhythm and timing affects ones ability to move one’s body to rhythm and imitate movement demonstrations (e.g., movement games and songs with motion).
- Improves spatial awareness. Spacial awareness is understanding one’s body in space and the relationship of other objects to each other and to one’s self. There are many opportunities to develop spatial awareness at the playground like crawling through tunnels or climbing over and under things. Children with poor spatial awareness may have difficulty with directions–left, right, under, over–reading, or organizing their classroom work. They may bump into things and people and have difficulty with math concepts.
- Most important benefit. It is fun for kids, builds confidence, encourages creativity, and provides them with social experience.
Nature provides children with even more opportunities to learn, grow, create, and develop skills essential for reading, writing and attending. Encourage Play! It is a child’s occupation.
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