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Family Matters

Why Are Playgrounds Important?

May 1st, 2016

By Ashley Betteridge

Playgrounds motivate children to get active but they also help to develop a variety of essential skills such as agility, balance, co-ordination and speed. This is known as the ABCs of physical literacy. Physical literacy is about developing competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities. The goal is to ensure that children learn the ABCs of physical activity and the fundamental movement skills needed in various sports and recreation so they can be active for life.

Why do playgrounds matter to physical literacy? As public spaces, playgrounds play a key role in helping all children achieve physical literacy. Because playgrounds are available year-round without registration or fees, they are vital in helping children from all walks of life develop physical literacy. Well-designed playgrounds provide the following physical literacy goals:

  •         develop the ABCs of physical literacy and build fundamental movement skills
  •         Inspire children to be physically active in an unstructured, fun-focused setting
  •         continue to provide new challenges as children grow in age and ability
  •         build the competence and confidence kids need to explore other forms of physical activity

How do playgrounds develop the ABCs of physical literacy? Canadian Sport for Life defines the ABCs of physical literacy as agility, balance, co-ordination and speed. A well-crafted playground can help build competence in all four skill areas.

  •   children develop both agility and coordination as they navigate their way up, down over and across climbers and overheads with varying designs and degrees of difficulty
  •  from swings to bouncers, teeter totters to basic balance beams, playgrounds provide numerous ways to build balancing skills
  •   children build both speed and agility while swinging, spinning, climbing or playing playground games

How do playgrounds develop the fundamental movement skills? According to Alberta Physical Education, the fundamental movement skills needed for physical literacy are locomotor skills, body control skills and manipulative skills. The good news is that a well-planned playground can develop all of these skills in an astonishing variety of ways.

Locomotor Skills are defined as moving through space in various ways such as walking, climbing, jumping and sliding. Playgrounds develop these skills in multiple ways:

  •         Navigating climbers of varying heights, designs and levels of difficulty (upward and downward and sideways) develops climbing skills as well as strength, agility and coordination
  •         Jumping from a moving swing, a platform, etc.
  •         Sliding is a locomotor skill that playgrounds provide year-round, developing core strength and flexibility
  •         Moving hand over hand across an overhead component is a skill unique to playgrounds; develops upper body strength and coordination
  •         Stepping and balancing across stepping pods, along balance beams or over wobbly bridges builds foot-eye co-ordination and balance

Body Control or Non-Locomotor Skills involve moving your body while remaining in place and can be developed in a variety of ways:

  •         Swinging is a much-loved body control movement found only on playgrounds; swinging helps develop balance and core strength as well as kicking and pushing skills
  •         Bouncing, rocking and spinning involve body control while also increasing balance, core strength and grip strength
  •         Hanging upside down, swinging by the arms or even rotating while hanging are unique movements supplied by various playground pieces; these movements develop flexibility as well as strength
  •         Components such as log rolls allow children to cycle their legs and/or arms while remaining stationary, building strength, balance and coordination

Manipulative Skills are developed while manipulating an external object. Here too, a playground can help develop skills:

  •         As children push each other on a swing they are using manipulative skills to trap and catch the swing as it comes towards them and propel it forward again
  •         Spinners are manipulated by one or more children who set the component in motion again and again while others do the spinning; teeter-totters and rocking pieces involve similar skills
  •         Equipment such as tether-balls, three-pointers and basketball goals provide further ways to develop manipulative skills

Not only do playgrounds help children on the road to physical literacy, they also provide a rich setting for imaginative play, social interaction and community togetherness. Playgrounds motivate children to explore their abilities, challenge themselves and learn what their bodies can do. Exciting play spaces inspire children to play outside and be physically active in an unstructured, fun-focussed setting.

White Rabbit Holding Ltd. (Northern Alberta’s distributor for Blue Imp Playgrounds) has been family-owned since 1917. They are proud to be Canada’s longest-standing playground and park equipment manufacturer. They design and fabricate a vast array of products at their facility in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Built on a reputation for durability and playability, they strive to craft inspiring designs using superior materials that stand up to enthusiastic play and extreme weather. Their high-quality products are infused with family pride and backed by the strongest warranty in the industry.

Tags: exercise, kids

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