Parents with young children often find the park or playground becomes a regular haunt. On the way home from school, or for a quick play before dinner, what seems like a simple piece of land with a few pieces of play equipment can really peak a child’s excitement. But if you’re starting to get bored with the regular visits to similar places, here are a few reasons to remind you how much your little ones benefit from this seemingly average activity.
Socializing - A Whole New Network!
You would be utterly surprised how many friends one can make in a park, especially when said people are under the age of ten. The beauty of being a youngster is that friendships can be formed over the simplest of activities, such as going down a slide together or pushing one another on the swings. It’s a great way to meet other kids their own age, who probably live in the same neighbourhood. Not to mention - it can be awesome for mummies and daddies too! Meeting other parents who bring their kids to the park around the same time can introduce you to a whole new community, and who knows, maybe even a great friend? You might hit it off and start scheduling playdates for your little ones.The possibilities are endless, specifically if you have a routine that you follow consistently so you tend to run into the same people repeatedly. Network network network!
Playing Is Learning
So going to the park isn’t quite school - but it’s still a vital way your child can learn skills, both physical and social. Gone are the days when we think of academics as the main way of growing an individual’s knowledge and skillset. In fact, studies have shown that hands-on experiences and interacting with other people may even have greater impact on a child’s future. Therefore, it is evident that engaging in outdoor play and playing on various pieces of playground equipment are a vital part of your little one’s childhood.
Bec Ho, from Touched by Olivia, elaborates further on this:
“Play is the most important part of childhood. It’s when you learn how to be a part of our society. It’s also the place where parents and carers can build their villages, so that we have the education and friendship needed to build great humans.”
Touched by Olivia is the only children’s charity in Australia that builds inclusive playspaces. They engage in a lot of grassroots work to create inclusive play spaces that have long lasting benefits on young (and older) people! Check out “State of Play 2016” a report recently commissioned by the charity.
Physical, Social & Intellectual Benefits
There is hardly any area of life that going for regular visits to playgrounds and parks doesn’t benefit in someway or another. Lucy Cook, mother of 4 boys including twins, teacher of 20 years and owner and operator of 7 early education and school care centres, explains some such benefits:
“Physical - allows little bodies to learn how to be manipulated and how to learn their limits (often through trial and error and it’s also important to learn how to fall safely). Children need to undertake risky play which helps develop both mind and body.
Social emotional - dramatic play, role playing, forming connections with other children also occurs in the playground. While both learning to lead and work as a team helps develop skills for group problem solving and as well the often hard skill, the art of compromise. Children are naturally egocentric, spending a lot of time with just the family unit when they are young. Heading outside gives them a great sense of the wider community, as well as a good feeling of belonging within their family.
Intellectual - The playground also provides a great environment for the learning of science and math concepts. “If I step on this, which way will it swing, can I balance, where’s my centre of gravity?” Connecting and exploring within the park gives children an appreciation for the natural environment.”
Taking Learning Far Beyond The Classroom
Some kids learn well in a classroom and some simply don’t. However this is certainly not definitive of who is going to succeed in later life as there are so many skills that need to be learned away from desks, textbooks and whiteboards - and the park is just one of many places to do so! David Gregory, who has been an Outdoor Education teacher for 16 years believes this is more important than ever to help develop real life skills for each and every student. Here is what he has to say below:
“The whole point of modern education should be to provide students with a dynamic skill set to tackle the challenges of life, not just academic, but social and emotional as well! This is where the outdoor education comes in. Forget about the specific activities for a moment. Worrying about this can be a distraction from the wider picture, so instead think about what emotional and spiritual goals you want to achieve from your programs. Be specific with it too! Do you want doctors with a good bedside manner? Do you want trades people who can setup and run their own enterprises? Do you want kids to be honest, responsible and functional members of society?”
David certainly poses some interesting questions to think about, and to consider when deciding what activities your kids should engage in aside from school and homework - because other things may be equally, if not more, important! To find out more, visit David’s website, David Gregory, as well as his twitter page.
So if you’re sitting at home right now with nothing to do - there’s absolutely no reason to avoid heading down to the park with your little ones in tow. If this hasn’t convinced you about the merits of this simple but rewarding activity, we don’t know what will!