Why Playing on Playgrounds is Good for Body, Mind and Soul

Do you remember the playgrounds of your youth? Kids would climb to the top of the slide, swoosh to the bottom in a flurry of screams and giggles, and then quickly scramble to the top to do it all over again. Other children would sit in swings and pump their legs harder and harder in order to feel the wind racing through their hair. Still others would move hand over hand across monkey bars and jungle gyms, mimicking forest animals, superheroes and agile gazelles.

It was as though we knew that being on those playgrounds was actually good for us, and we were going to relish every carefree, wholesome moment. As it turns out, we were on to something. Experts agree that playing outdoors on playgrounds is essential to childhood development, and the great thing is, children are naturally drawn to outdoor play, so it is usually not something they have to be forced to do.

When children play on playgrounds, they strengthen muscles and develop greater coordination. In addition, playgrounds enable them to investigate their environment, engage in imaginative play and boost self-confidence as challenging tasks are attempted and accomplished. All of these skills are essential to healthy development, not just of their bodies, but of their minds and spirits as well.

On playgrounds, children can use their whole selves to engage in what child development experts refer to as serious play. Playgrounds require hard work. Climbing to the top of a structure, getting a swing to move, making it across an expanse of hanging rings—all of this requires not only physical dexterity, but concentration and focus. If adults tried to force them to put that same level of focus and effort into other activities, most children would deem it too hard, but playgrounds make the endeavor fun and enjoyable.

Plus, since playgrounds allow for unstructured play, they encourage children to develop their imaginations. On any given day, there are comic book heroes, space explorers, world-acclaimed athletes, astronauts and international spies gracing the playgrounds of the world. Studies have shown that children who are allowed to develop their imaginations through play do better in school and eventually in life.

It is a rare gift indeed when something we enjoy is also good for us! For children, playgrounds provide the perfect way to play their way to better physical, mental and emotional health.

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