While standard playgrounds are indisputably a good resource for helping to keep our children physically active, there’s no denying that there are some improvements that could be made to them to improve how comprehensive children’s play is within them.
By this we mean that while ordinary playgrounds offer great options for physical play, they sometimes lack sufficient arrangements to encourage social play, pretend play, and constructive play. As a result, we believe that it is important to have more play-friendly playgrounds.
What is a “Play-friendly Playground”? Why are play-friendly playgrounds important?
Many people believe that all playgrounds are “play-friendly” simply because they are, by definition, where children play. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception.
In reality, while most playgrounds offer great equipment that can encourage children to be physically active, there is often not much in the way of equipment to encourage pretend play (which stimulates creativity and imagination) or social play (which encourages social interaction and the development of social skills).
Furthermore, standard playgrounds often do not have resources available to accommodate the needs of disabled children, who are just as entitled to an enjoyable playground experience as other children but are often unable to participate in the more physically demanding activities.
True play-friendly playgrounds, by comparison, are much more inclusive and offer a greater range of activities for children to participate in. These more comprehensive playgrounds are important because they can help provide children with not just active play but also social play and pretend play, which can aid in their development.
What Is Needed In A Play-friendly Playground?
For a playground to be truly “play-friendly”, it needs to offer more activities and equipment than swing-sets and slides. These types of equipment encourage active play only, and a comprehensive playground that gives a child a true play experience must also offer options for pretend play and social play.
One way of doing this is building an area specifically geared towards pretend play within the playground. Small playhouses in particular are excellent for games of pretend, because they encourage children to come up with stories for what happens within that house.
Some children use the playhouse to pretend that they are parents raising a family, while others pretend that the house is a castle they must defend from a dragon; whatever scenario they choose, this sort of pretend play encourages them to use their imaginations and be creative. Some truly comprehensive pretend play areas even offer toys and props that children can use to enhance their games.
Another feature seen in many play-friendly parks is an area geared towards more artistic forms of creation. Some of these parks will have an area set aside that provides children with access to paints, clay, and other arts and crafts supplies.
This also helps to encourage their creativity, and also offers them a chance to gather together with other children that have similar interests (which in turn enables social play and a greater development of both social and creative skills). These sorts of areas are also much less physically demanding by comparison, making them a viable choice for many children with disability who would otherwise be forced to sit on the sideline while at the playground.
Ultimately, while play-friendly playgrounds might be difficult to build depending upon the resources available in your community, they are definitely worth the cost for the way they can provide children with a more comprehensive and inclusive play experience.