How can different elements of play help children be more successful in the classroom?
Jami Murdock- In the area of early childhood development or preschool where I am a teacher, we focus on preparing the kids for their upcoming experience at school. Since children in preschool learn through play, playground activities are extremely important in our day.
- Playground activities not only help a child develop physically, but also help in the areas of cognitive, adaptive, social and emotional development as well.
- Different elements of play are great for early childhood development, and early development is what shapes a child’s future.
So, let’s look a little deeper at one of the seven elements of play on the playground – swinging – and how it very directly affects a child’s growth.
How does swinging help kids in the classroom?
Swinging can have a large impact on our brains ability to process sensory information.
- Swinging is a great activity to help develop a child’s vestibular system. Children who have an underdeveloped vestibular system may not have a sense of balance or don’t feel grounded. Often, their equilibrium is off and they may need activities like swinging to help develop their vestibular system.
The vestibular system serves many purposes: influences the development of muscle tone, determines your ability to balance, helps us coordinate both sides of our body together and allows us to coordinate our eye movements with our head.
- Swinging helps promote whole body awareness and body coordination. Knowing where your fingers are in relation to your body. Activities such as writing, coloring and cutting require whole body awareness.
- Swinging is also a good activity to promote the development of our proprioceptive system. The proprioceptive system is responsible for motor planning and motor control, as well as grading movements (knowing how much pressure is needed to complete a task) and postural stability. Kids with an underdeveloped proprioceptive system may be challenged by fine motor and adaptive skills such as tying shoes, buttoning clothes, pouring drinks and washing hands.
- Swinging allows children to develop coordinated movements, and strengthen arms, legs and trunk. There are lots of different motions to coordinate to make a swing move.
- Swinging helps children learn that actions have consequences; that what goes up must come down or if “I walk in front or behind someone swinging, I may get hit and knocked down.” This is necessary for emotional development.
Some of my preschoolers have not spent much time on a swing. You can see their excitement as they start to realize how it works; “this is what happens when I move my legs back and forth, I keep going higher and higher.”
- Swinging can relax a child and put them at ease. A child who is quiet and introverted may get on a swing and then start singing or talking. He or she might engage in pretend play, like imagining what it is like to be an astronaut in space.
- Swinging promotes problem solving and risk taking. A favorite activity of my preschoolers is the ‘underdog.’ This is where I push them from behind and then run under the swing. They love to see if I can make it under the swing before they come back down.
Traditional and infant swings.
Benefits of Swinging:
- Physical development: Large and small motor
- Promotes sensory processing
- Relaxes and soothes
- Helps develop problem-solving skills
Want to learn more? I give an educational presentation about the importance of playground activities, how these different elements of play contribute to a child’s success in the classroom.