Because I currently do not leave for work until 2:20 in the afternoon, I have been taking my toddler daughter to the local playgrounds after lunch on nice days. I plop her into her stroller and then walk the two dogs on their leashes. Sometimes Kenobi, the new puppy, gets tired and rides in the stroller with my daughter. Although we live in a small town, we are lucky to have a number of parks within walking distance of our house. In addition to the two playgrounds at the two schools, our city also has four other public parks, one of which is just a few blocks from our house.
The local elementary school is also only a few blocks from our house, so I recently took my daughter to the school playground after lunch. All the other kids were in class, so we had the playground to ourselves. Poppy immediately climbed up onto the playground equipment. She used to always head for the slides. However, she recently hurt herself sliding down face first, and she has been a bit apprehensive about slides since then. I keep trying to show her how to slide down feet first, but she insists on going down face first. When she goes down face first, she ends up skinning her arms on the plastic. She loves slides, so I wish I could convince her to go down feet first. I know that she would love sliding again if she slid down properly.
In addition to the slides, my daughter also loves pushing the swings on the playground. At the city park, she loves when I push her in the baby swing. At the elementary school playground, she will spend quite a bit of time pushing the big kid swings back and forth. Sometimes she will sit on my lap while I swing with her, but she seems to have even more fun pushing the swings herself while she stands on the ground. Whatever makers her happy, right?
Playing on the playground is not just a fun time for my daughter. Playing outside on a playground also offers a number of benefits for kids. Young children learn best by playing. Research in child development shows a clear link between play and brain development, motor-skills, and social capabilities. For example, when I take my daughter to the park, she improves her gross motor skills by climbing up steps and ladders. I am amazed by how good she is getting at walking up the stairs while holding the handrail on her own.
Playing on the playground is also great for language development. I try to stay active with my daughter while she plays. For example, I talk to her, saying things like “You are climbing UP the steps”and “You are sliding DOWN the slide,” both of which teach her vocabulary words and concepts. Now that my daughter is starting to talk more, she is also pointing out things she sees and telling me the name. For example, whenever she sees something round, she says, “ba,” which means “ball,” which, to her, means any round object. She also likes to climb to the top of the playground and point down at her dogs and say, “da.” She will also spend hours asking, “Wha da?” I dutifully tell her the name of whatever she is asking about.
Although we sometimes go to the playground on overcast days, my daughter and I usually head out after lunch on sunnier days. When the sun is shining, we get the added benefit of the vitamin D naturally produced by the body from sunshine on the skin. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D is thought to offer protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and several autoimmune diseases. A lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets, which results in skeletal deformities, and osteomalacia, which results in muscular weakness in addition to weak bones. Too much sun can cause burns, which can lead to skin cancer. But a little bit of sun is necessary for maintaining proper levels of vitamin D in the body.
My toddler daughter loves going to the playground because she loves running around outside and climbing up and down the playground equipment. I love that I am giving my daughter an added opportunity to grow and develop properly. As she plays, she improves her motor skills. As she and I talk, her language skills development. Even just being outside in the sunshine provides her with the necessary vitamin D that her body needs to remain healthy. Playing outside on the playground is just plain healthy for kids.
Do you take your kids to the playground? Did you know that playing outside at a playground was so beneficial to young children?
The Benefits of Playgrounds for Children Aged 0-5: http://www.first5shasta.org/pdfs/playgrounds0102.pdf
Poppy Climbing on the Playground © 2013 Heather Johnson
Poppy Checking Out the Ball Toss © 2013 Heather Johnson
Poppy Pushing a Swing © 2013 Heather Johnson
Poppy at the Bottom of a Slide © 2013 Heather Johnson
Poppy Climbing Up the Playground Steps © 2013 Heather Johnson
Poppy Climbing Up the Playground © 2013 Heather Johnson