The Importance of the Playground: recent research

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By David Reeves

Some of the most important learning in childhood takes place outside the classroom, on the playground. Recent research shows that children develop important cognitive and social skills while playing, to say the least of improving their physical health. Here are just a few interesting examples of skills developing in the background while children are having fun playing.

Longer Attention Spans: In 2009, the journal Pediatrics found that students who were given more than 15 minutes of recess time on a daily basis were better behaved than those who had no recess period. When children in school take a break from learning lessons and are given the chance to play with one another, they are better able to focus on the subjects they are studying. Rather than looking at “play” as something that will take away from “study,” research shows that the two are actually mutually beneficial.

IQ Growth: Playing helps children grow their brains. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who were exposed to enriched, play-oriented childhood programs and social interaction had higher IQs at the age of five, as opposed to children who were not given the same play-oriented opportunities. Play is so important to child development that it is even recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a fundamental right of every child.

Stronger Social Interactions: A study published by the International Journal of Early Childhood found that imaginative play is a critical tool for the early childhood development of special needs children, who (like all other children) need shared peer experiences to develop the foundations for social interaction. Imaginative play is best learned through unstructured play, out on the playground, rather than by exploring a systematic videogame or app. Spending time on the playground teaches children first-hand how to navigate the real-life dynamics of group relationships.

Healthy Habits for Life: Of course, being physically active while playing on the playground improves kids health on multiple levels. Physical activity is known to improve blood circulation, blood cholesterol levels, and manage high blood pressure. It also helps kids to increase their muscle strength and stabilize their weight. And it manages their risk for long-term chronic health conditions, like asthma, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. All these reasons and more are why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether that’s on the playground or through using a fun game like Zamzee.

These are just a few examples from a strong body of mounting scientific evidence that points to playtime as a vital component of child development. From cognitive growth to social interaction and physical activity, play has it all. So take a tip from the experts and head out to grow and have some fun at your neighborhood playground!

David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc, a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to many industries, with its roots deep in the park and playground markets including churches, schools, and day care centers.

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