When it comes to playing, there is nothing better than being a kid. From sandboxes to monkey bars to swing sets and tire mounds, being a kid is so much fun. And there in the center of it all are playgrounds. That cool spot where kids from all over the neighborhood can meet up, get a little dirty, and share a few hours of outdoor fun. Though playgrounds have been seen in a slightly controversial light over the past few years, there are endless fun, positive, and interesting facts about playgrounds that a lot of parents did not know about.
Sure the playground is where you should bring your little one to burn off some steam, but what about the benefits of taking a child to the playground for his or her development?
We've scoured the world atlas of playgrounds for the coolest playgrounds on earth and broke down the ones with the coolest features that parents can find at home. Ever been curious what that spinny thing was for? Or why that wooden drawbridge moves so awkwardly? Or why the trapeze rings are spaced out the way they are?
Believe it or not, there is a reason for it all. We even asked playground designers to explain what's what and what it is for to give moms the best rundown on the 20 most fascinating facts about children's playgrounds.
21 They Get Physical
Playgrounds are a great place to let your kids run around and sweat a bit, but did you know that they are also great places to improve motor skills and gain physical strength?
Think of it like this: When kids climb up to the slide it builds coordination and develops strength in their arms and legs. They then get increased vestibular involvement sliding down the slide, according to Toca Boca.
And as it turns out, monkey bars are for more than just hanging around, the grasping action children need to hold on helps strengthen little hands and fingers, which helps with handwriting skills.
20 The Improve Balance & Coordination
Ever wonder why your little ones seem to enjoy that tightrope so much? The balancing act they perform calls for a lot of concentration which is entertaining but also great for their balance and coordination. Once he or she is done with that tight room, have them look to the swings.
Swings provide a lot of physical development opportunities that includes grasping, balance, landing, jumping, pushing, turning, rhythm, pectoral muscle use, according to ABC News.
Swinging also enhances the sensory system and builds core strength when kids are holding onto the swing. And the best part? When mom needs a break, the swings help relax an overstimulated child since they have a calming effect.
19 Talking To One Another
If you are looking to conduct a bit of a social experiment think about taking your little one to the playground–see how they interact with other children.
Playgrounds are a great place to establish social skills and get a little rowdy too.
Kids gain social skills by figuring out how to interact with and share space with other kids. Research as far back as 1885 proves that learners fare better when breaks are incorporated into their efforts.
One study published in Psychology Today on playgrounds and their impact on the development of children ages 0-5, determined, "Playing promotes brain development and helps lay the neural grid for a successful mind through repetitive play actions that reinforce that grid."
18 The Wonders Of The World
If your kids are a bit too young to appreciate all of the wonders in the world, consider taking them to the best playgrounds in the world. Hakone Open-Air Sculpture ParkPod in Tokyo was knit entirely by hand.
Australia's Pod Playground is all about climbing and exploring it has six unique huge wooden acorns that kids can climb inside. Whale Playground in Denmark will let your kids learn about the sea and climb a whale.
The Tire Park in Tokyo has nothing on the tire swing you hung up in front of your grandmother's old lake house. Gulliver Park in Spain allows for your kids to connect to their inner historian and literature lover. Then, there's also the St Kilda adventure playground in southern Australia and teardrop park in New York New York.
17 Sharing And Collaborating With Others
Playgrounds are a great place for your kids to learn to share.
If there is a long line for the swing, this is the opportunity for them to learn to play for a little while then share their swing with someone else.
Collaborative play also comes easier when there are many activities like there are on the playground. With all of the activities available on the playground, children can collaborate with other kids to create games and get inspired to use their imagination to incorporate certain numbers of players and explore the different elements and activity spaces of the playground.
16 taking it One At A Time
Playing on a playground teaches children consecutive order and patience. It's never too early to teach kids order and when it's okay to wait in line so everyone can get a turn, one after the other.
Psychology Today suggests that children who can learn through tactile experiences are twice as likely to retain what they have learned.
Learning these skills early will help them do better in school, according to Playexplorers.com. Adapting the skills like learning what comes first second and last that can be learned on the playground will help them advance when they are in the classroom. And what better way to learn than through physical activity?
15 learning Diversity In Others
To help teach your little ones about the diversity in the world, bring them to the nearest playground. Depending on the school district or neighborhood, it might provide them with the opportunity to witness many different cultures and diverse ways other children play.
Playgrounds with diverse equipment will also teach your children about choice. If they notice there is a line for one of their favorite pieces of equipment on the playground, but another that they like is not in use, they can choose to diversify their play by going to play with something else, or wait in line until everyone is finished playing with that piece of equipment.
14 Tap Those Senses
If you want your kids to tap into their senses and really develop the ability to calm themselves, figure out what is round and hard. Cause and effect, take them to the playground.
"Playgrounds are a sensory smorgasbord, too, providing kids with input to stimulate their senses, which helps kids learn to regulate themselves," explains Jennifer Philbrook, MS. “Playground play gives kids such great input to calm themselves, organize their bodies and minds, and to facilitate just right levels of alertness all while playing!”
“They get to touch a variety of textures from the smooth metal of the equipment to the feel of the grass or mulch that sits under the playground equipment," she also adds.
13 Master Of Skills
Your kids are brilliant, but if you want them to take their skills to the mastery level, do yourself a favor and take them to the playground.
Physical therapist Kizmi Olson, MSPT, suggests introducing kids in physical therapy to new sensory inputs through play — like water, sand, sounds — to develop their awareness but also keep things fun.
“Playgrounds are great,” she said, “because they’re fun and allow kids to get the sensory interactions they need. The motivation to play is high, so parents don’t have to feel like they are making kids do exercises.”
Her three favorite playground activities for kids are slides, swings, and sand pits.
12 Gaining Independence
One of the proudest, happiest, but also saddest moments for moms at a playground is realizing that their little ones do not need them to play as they are perfectly capable of playing all by themselves with their peers.
Playgrounds take the idea of playdates to a whole new level. Before you were able to take your little one someplace for some fun time to play, now you take them to the playground and they just go and do their own thing.
Be proud, Mom, you raised a completely capable little one, but also, don't feel sad. Many days will come when he or she will need you for other, more big kid things in the future.
11 becoming Little Problem Solvers
According to Hertz Furniture, a manufacturer of playground equipment, all playgrounds should be equipped with different areas that inspire active play, free play, exploratory play, and quiet contemplation.
We know you thought kids were just running around aimlessly on the playground but actually they were learning some pretty important skills. As it turns out, that empty space in the center is not just for kids to transition from one side to the other, instead playground manufacturers designed the area as a place where kids can stand or sit for free thought and contemplation.
Who knew? Playgrounds are also a great place for children to develop problem-solving skills.
10 taking on New Challenges
A kid might wonder, "How can I get to the top of this huge tower?" while gazing towards the top of the slide and monkey bars.
Playgrounds present new challenges for your little ones to overcome. Toca Boca advises that minimal parental interference at a playground is what leads to the biggest advantages, "Parents may have to consciously resist interfering, letting kids figure out how to get themselves out of challenging situations. If they were able to climb up somewhere unassisted, they should be able to get themselves down safely."
Life already has a variety of challenges, allow the playground to be a place where they can climb on top of them.
9 Experiencing Success
Chances are, he or she will not get to the top of the tire mound on their first try. Chances are they may not get to the top of the tire mound by their second time.
But with persistence and perseverance, they will eventually get to the top.
Playgrounds can teach children the invaluable skill to try and try again and persevere until they achieve success all while running, yelling, and having fun.
Not too bad, Mom. Try not to force your little one to keep at something they do not like, however. If they had a pretty traumatic fall and declared they do not like the mound anymore, try not to force them.
8 Expanding The Imaginary
Twenty-first-century playgrounds are being constructed with more free play areas for children to experience the comfort of developing and exploring their imagination.
Playground designer Ms. Harvison says, "But I think the biggest change in playground design is that we've gone from catering to physical strength-type activities for small primary age students to now thinking about playgrounds in terms of a whole range of developmental needs for children."
"There are also other aspects they've realised are really important, such as imaginative play and socialising aspects so kids develop their social skills in the playground."
7 All Work And No Play
According to studies published in both The American Academy of Pediatrics and Scientific American, children without access to play are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
Safe outdoor play areas has been proven to bring about good health and emotional well-being. Not to mention, playing in the fresh air leads to an all-around healthier child.
"Physical activity also stimulates brain activity and improves circulation to the blood vessels in the brain. This brings water, oxygen, and glucose to the brain at a higher rate than it does to the brain of the sedentary child," says the National Institutes of Health.
6 Just Not Like It Used To Be
Slides are significantly lower than they were 30 years ago, says parks and playground planner Ms. Harvison, "With things like slides, no longer can little fingers get caught and sliced off in metal rails; height has also changed, so if children do fall their risk of getting seriously hurt is considerably reduced."
This is a good thing, but for us nostalgic parents excited to take our kids to the playground for the first time to show them the ropes, try not to be too surprised if your old time favorites like the merry-go-rounds, see-saws, and horizontal monkey bars are no longer standing. They are all being erased from the modern day playground blueprint.
5 No More Metal
Those towering metal structures of playgrounds past are being replaced with molded plastic models that fit in line with Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.
But at least you know your children will never have to endure that summer shock of scooting down a metal slide in a skirt or pair of shorts after it had been baking in the hot sun all day.
The same goes for the metal beams and metal structures that make up most of the playgrounds we remember. Like those animal coiled cutouts that you can hop on and ride, the coils have now been replaced with plastic to decrease the likelihood of cuts or injuries.
4 Once A Decade
According to SRP Playgrounds, the average playground can last 8 to 10 years. That is 8 to 10 years of wear and tear and children's activity.
If the playground you choose to bring your child to is made of natural fibers like wood or rubber, the maintenance required to maintain that fun playful look may be more than for a playground made of plastics and other man-made materials.
That means generations of children can pass through the same playground and some old standby's. This is also great news for schools who are not looking to replace equipment every school year.
3 it's Not Chemical-Free
Older playsets are chemically-coated. Traditional playgrounds contain really alarming levels of arsenic. The chemical products were used to seal the materials of the playground to avoid chipping and splintering, although with years and years of wear and tear those were inevitable happenings.
Luckily, newer coating treatments are more child-friendly and contain no arsenic, but still have some chemicals, according to Playground Professionals.
The website advises parents to check with schools about the ingredient lists of the playground materials in the schools they choose to send their children to.
In 2004 the US Environmental Agency banned the use of CCA — chromatid copper arsenate. It also requires that institutions in the US dispose of any play-set and sealant product manufactured before then.
2 Watch Your Arms
No one ever said play is free of injury. Playing can get a little painful from time to time. According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, over 200,000 children are treated annually for playground equipment-related injuries.
And the number one body part that gets injured in these incidents are the arms. Ensuring that the school playground is a safe place to play and that equipment passes the Head Impact Criterion test which measures the likelihood of a head injury to happen from a fall is essential.
Weighing all of the potentials for injury, manufacturers have started to implement weight limits on different playground equipment for added safety. Equipment could buckle under too much pressure.
1 About Sun Technology
We are all aware of the benefits of getting some sun, for example, immune function is improved by exposure to sunlight, and even half an hour on a playground triggers the body's absorption of Vitamin D.
But since the amount of time children spend outdoors has significantly declined in today's age of technology, providing students with an appealing and stimulating outdoor area is inspiring playground designers and developers to get more and more creative with the types of features they are adding to new playgrounds.
In countries like Australia, Ms. Harvison says we are seeing children interact with phones and digital technology a lot more.
References: ABC News, TocaBoca, Play Explorers, PlaygroundProfessionels.com, and Psychology Today.