More Than Meets the Eye
This is part of a series of posts on the importance of school playgrounds and how to put research into action when designing a play space for students. Request information about Play On!, the standards-based curriculum for active school playgrounds.
Better by Design
It’s important to note playgrounds that encourage and enhance physical activity don’t happen by accident. They are created through thoughtful planning according to best practices and national standards for physical activity. GameTime designs to fully implement the Play On! program, while incorporating the six key elements of play to promote fitness and help children reach moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity. Physical educators and recreation professionals can play a critical role in the selection of playground equipment and the overall design of the outdoor play and learning environment. They also play an important role in programming the space for active play.
Play On! activities utilize playground equipment to make physical activity fun and exciting!
Benefits of Slides and Sliding Play
Slides are a playground favorite among children of all ages. The exhilaration of moving quickly down a slide is unlike any other experience on the playground. Aside from being a lot of fun, slides offer important physical and developmental benefits for children. Slides enhance core stability, dynamic balance, and leg and hip flexibility. Slides also provide body and spatial awareness. Let’s take a look at those one at a time.
Core Stability: Just as a tree needs a strong trunk to be able to hold its branches up, and withstand elements in its environment, a child requires a strong core to participate in life’s daily activities. Core strength, or postural control, is both the anchor and launching pad for everything a child does. “Core” refers to the muscles surrounding the abdomen, pelvis and back. According to the American Occupational Therapists Association, if a child has poor core strength, he or she may have difficulty controlling fine motor skills, such as handwriting, and participating in gross motor activities like active sports and games.
Dynamic Balance: Dynamic balance is the ability to remain balanced while engaged in movement. Age appropriate balance and coordination allows a child to be involved in physical activity as it aids fluid body movement for physical skill performance (e.g. walking a balance beam or playing sports). With good balance and coordination there is less likelihood of injury as a child is likely to have appropriate postural responses when needed (e.g. putting hands out to protect themselves when they fall). The physical attributes of balance and coordination also allow appropriate posture for fine motor tasks, such as writing and other classwork.
Leg and Hip Flexibility: Flexibility and mobility in the legs and hips allows children to increase their strength and perform active movements more efficiently and effectively. Improving leg and hip flexibility will increase performance in physical activity and may also help prevent lower back pain or injury as children grow older.
Body and Spatial Awareness: Spatial awareness is the ability to see and understand two or more objects in relation to each other and to one’s body in terms of space and distance. The key to developing spatial awareness is to have adequate awareness of the body, relative to other objects and/or people. For example, when a child reaches for a book, she or he must learn how far to stretch the muscles in the arms to reach that object. Over time, a child is able to reach for objects automatically and with accuracy. It’s a surprisingly complex skill that children develop at an early stage of brain development. It is learned and developed through play.
Slides are fun, exciting, and beneficial in the physical and cognitive development of students.
As you can see, there is a lot more to slides than just sliding down a length of steel or plastic! By incorporating slides at various heights and of various styles to your playground design, you can support diverse opportunities and the developmental progression of skills through active movement.
Tell me More!
There are six essential elements of play–swinging, sliding, spinning, climbing, balancing and brachiating (overhead climbing). Play On! addresses each of these elements and how to incorporate them into playground design. If you can’t wait for the next blog post, request more information about Play On! Or contact your local GameTime representative for ideas to create the perfect school playground.