March 30, 2022

Three Important Lessons for School Playgrounds

During a long day of learning, there is nothing a child wants more than to run around on the school playground with their friends. It's one of the joys of being a kid. 

According to a study from the University of Rochester, recess is essential for student success and should be offered along with physical education. The research states that children who didn't spend adequate time playing during break showed a lack of understanding of social norms and suffered from poor emotional development.

Creating a healthy space on the playground starts with selecting the proper equipment. Today, we'll explore how to choose playground equipment that turns recess into a space for growth. 

Lesson 1: An Effective School Playground Keeps Students Moving

Boys playing on an overhead ladder on the school playground

Since the late 1970s, children have lost 12 hours of free time a week. This statistic further breaks down into a 25% decrease in play and a 50% decrease in unstructured outdoor activities

For some children, the only opportunity for outdoor play is at school during recess. Recess periods are usually shorter than the recommended 60 minutes per day, so it's essential to include playground equipment that offers "accidental fitness."

Accidental fitness describes playground equipment that a child would engage with because it "looks fun." Sure, it's play, but children are still engaging in effective physical activity. A great option for encouraging this accidental fitness is playground climbers. 

Climbing is a great full-body workout that doesn't exact significant strain on the body. GameTime's VistaRope® net climbers include a variety of climbers that promote physical strength, positive risk-taking, and balance and coordination. Climbers like these also help children develop fine motor skills, which allows them to handle tools like pencils and scissors in the classroom.

Lesson 2: Making Sense of Sensory Play

Girl playing in the colorful shadows on the playground

Sensory skills are a critical developmental milestone among children. Children learn through engaging with the world around them, and the senses help process what they encounter.

The best method for refining these sensory skills is through sensory play. Children encounter many different sights, sounds, smells, textures, and pressures while playing. This exposure helps them learn to process many senses at once.

Sensory play is not difficult to integrate into existing school playgrounds. You can pick ShadowPlay® roofs and panels to cast colorful shadows along the playground or add GT Sensors to panels or play system components for auditory, tactile, and auditory play. You can also install sensory elements within the Sensory Wave Arch Climber to integrate full-body movement. 

Lesson 3: School Playgrounds Should Be Inclusive

Children play together on an inclusive school playground

The best school playgrounds are places where everyone is included. 

As children grow older, they will likely encounter other children with disabilities. Kids often equate the concept of "fairness" to "being available to everyone," which is not always realistic for children with disabilities.    

Research shows that disability awareness intervention has significant positive effects on children's understanding and attitudes toward people with disabilities. It's important to instill an inclusive mindset at a young age so children will become advocates throughout their lives. 

GameTime's GT Wave is the industry's first inclusive net climber with a transfer platform attached to an accessible route leading to a six-foot zip slide. This climber will bring every child in your school together through play. 

If you're designing an entirely new play space, consider using the research found in Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design™ from PlayCore and Utah State Center for Persons with Disabilities. This comprehensive design guide is filled with research and resources to help you create a playground that benefits the whole child and every child.

Making the Grade

Selecting the right school playground equipment requires planning and forethought to serve student development best. You want to make sure your playground equipment helps children stay fit, develops fine motor skills, provides sensory opportunities, and teaches children to have an inclusive mindset. 

GameTime offers a wide range of school playground products and trained experts who can help you plan the perfect school playground. Contact a GameTime representative today to create a plan that brings the best equipment to play in the lives of your students.