Last summer, we shared Step 1 of improving the play experience for children. Here is Step 2.
While we realize that frequent play benefits children with their daily physical activity, it also extends beyond just profiting their youthful bodies. Recently, free-play has been seen to reduce stress, allowing children to focus more intensely on their studies. Frequent short periods of active play can contribute to better learning. Active play, such as running around while pushing friends on a rotating climber, or forcing their legs to get the swing to go higher, will literally "get the blood pumping".
This increased blood flow brings refreshment to the whole body, most importantly by delivering an increased amount of well-oxygenated blood. The fresh flow of oxygenated blood in the brain increases cognitive abilities and generally contributes to a better learning experience. The "body refreshment" also tends to remove doldrums and physical attributes of stress, improving emotional stability and making students more receptive to lessons.
The activity of play is more than "just play" when the playground equipment is deliberately designed to give children a passive learning opportunity, which productively encourages them to further develop intellectually just from their play experience. While traditional play structures were often designed with a linear flow-through plan which encourages users to simply climb up, go down and repeat, many wonderful creations are being designed using nets and flexible materials. These flexible materials are chosen partly due to the many lessons which they contain, inherent in their nature: scientific principles such as cause and effect, perpetual motion, equal and opposite reaction; as well as angles and momentum.
The responsibility we hold as adults is to encourage the development of our children, to build their foundation of confidence and insight which will guide them throughout their lives. A good way to help children down this path is to allow them to think and make decisions; give them goals to achieve; let them fail and work to overcome their limitations. By presenting children with a plethora of play paths and the freedom to decide which they will follow, we let them choose their own way. Giving them practice in thoughtful consideration and decision making by offering play equipment designed with many ways to use it helps them get ready to be leaders and trendsetters later in life. By giving them targets and goals which require effort to reach, such as climbing higher & higher in a tower net, we help to build their confidence to reach higher and farther as they continue to mature physically and mentally.
Stay tuned for 'Step 3', the concluding part to bettering the play experience for our children.