If you're anything like us, the Boomerang grown-ups, then you'll have mixed memories of your school years. However, one thing we all have fond memories of is the play time. These opportunities, although only a small portion of the school day, were times when we were free to run and play as we wished. Fly through time to the present day however, and so many children (even as young as our pre-schoolers) are spoilt for choice with activities and opportunities that, whilst enjoyable, don't offer the freedom and simplicity that a playground or play area would.
To be honest, most of us just aren't aware of how critical play time is for kids as they develop. Wherever they are, these aren't just places to explore and be free, they also hold a vital place in teaching young minds important lessons.
In fact, the United Nations names play as, in the case of children, a basic human right.
Here are just a few benefits of play opportunities for children...
The physical benefits of playing in a playground for little ones is simply fantastic. The CDC recommends at least one hour of exercise for every child, every day and giving your little one the chance to burn off some steam in a playground is nothing short of ideal. It’s a great way to instil the habit of exercise into your little ones, as it allows them to associate exercise with pleasurable experiences. It can help with everything from flexibility to balance and much more.
Learn through play
There have been hundreds of studies conducted by experts in fields from psychology to biology to education, all based on childhood play. Regardless of the expert, and the question, all studies point to the very same fact - that play is vital when it comes to early years learning.
When our little ones play, they not only have fun but learn essential skills such as coordination, cognitive abilities as well as social awareness and motor skills. As they continue to grow, this playtime becomes far more complex and without it, their ability to grow and learn can become stunted.
Allowing children the time and space to enjoy free play in this manner gives them the ability to learn without even realising it, simply by awakening their creative side. There is nothing else that provides an opportunity for play like early years playground equipment; easily accessible, and fun because you have all your friends with you too. What’s not to like?
While any physical and social benefits of children's play may be fairly obvious to most, the emotional benefits may not be. BUT...don’t let that fool you into thinking there aren’t any. Playing in a play area, play centre or playground, especially for a child of early years, is a great way to develop their emotional abilities. By playing with other children (regardless of age) and going up and down climbing frames, nets, walls and slides, they can see a huge boost in their confidence. It also teaches them how to deal with challenges which can in turn, drift over into other areas of their lives. It can also help lower the tendency to misbehave as their energy is diverted into more positive experiences.
99% of the time, playgrounds and play areas aren't lonely places for a child. They're usually accompanied, if not surrounded, by their peers, giving children the chance to socialise which even when it’s at a socially distanced space, can still be beneficial. Meeting other children at such a young age teaches little ones to cooperate, compromise, share, overcome shyness and even develop friendships outside of their family unit.
So there you have it - play isn't just play. Play is learning, developing, growing, maturing, overcoming, winning, stabilising and of course FUN. So lockdown or no lockdown, encourage play.