There is no doubt that the best investment we can make in the future of welfare and prosperity is through the education of young children. The focus on high quality day care and schools accordingly is high, and interest in premium quality educational offerings to stimulate play and learning is growing rapidly.
In the quest to improve children’s health and education, it is all too easy to overlook one obvious fact – children actually enjoy being active! More and more research has been conducted on the topic with conclusions suggesting that physical activity and cognitive alertness are intrinsically intertwined.
When children are physically active, they show increased learning and behavioural capabilities, through improved alertness and attention management. Some surveys even suggest that certain activities and curriculum can be traded for free outdoor play without harming learning and educational performance. Many studies are still being conducted in this field, but one thing is certain: children need to be emotionally balanced to learn in the first place, with play proving a highly effective means of gaining or regaining emotional balance.
Children learn through education, but they also learn in life. Take motor skills for example, which tend to be under-challenged today due to sedentary lifestyles, but constitute the very fundamentals of life skills. Teachers often talk about a deficit of emotional intelligence in many children today which include an understanding of nature and social interaction. Playground play stimulates these valuable life skills, as children learn to communicate, coordinate, tolerant and manage conflicts.
As children have different cognitive capacities at different stages of life, toddler play equipment and areas should be specifically designed with this in mind. Essential for their overall development, toddlers need to relate to the world around them and ultimately understand it. The coordination of gross motor skills and spatial understanding is trained when moving through a variety of play spaces, while hand eye coordination and balance is stimulated through varied tactile input and manipulations such as moving up and down, twisting and turning, opening and closing.
If children are given a well-equipped play area in the right location, it is hard to keep them away. By increasing the areas for free play activity, we offer our children the possibility of being physically active without competition and formal instruction. Furthermore we stimulate their creativity, social and emotional well-being while promoting not only a healthy future but valuable skills for life.