Benefits of Outdoor Play

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A favorite childhood activity is time spent at the playground. Not only is the playground a wonderful opportunity to expend energy and hang out with friends, but it is also a way for our body to work on big muscle skills. The playground is an extremely important place in your child’s life to help promote typical development.

When a child learns to perform a new movement task, he usually does not succeed on the first try; so he tries again and again, each time tweaking the last attempt to improve the skill. This is called trial and error and that is how he learns to sequence the movements and become fluid and successful at the task. For example, when he learns how to kick a ball, he first practices standing on one leg to free up the other leg to contact the ball with his toes. As his balance and strength improve, he now has extra time standing on one leg to bend his free leg back and properly prep for the kick. Kicking is one example of an activity that can be practiced in the playground.

The giant playground climbing equipment provides a great opportunity for your child to work on strengthening and stair climbing, even if it entails creeping on his hands and knees. Moving on an unstable surface can be wonderful practice for balance and coordination. A typical playground has multiple opportunities for climbing for all ages. The weight bearing effect on the joints and muscles helps provide a grounded feeling of their body.

The swings are a wonderful opportunity to help provide vestibular information which, in turn, promotes posture strengthening and a sense of organization. This, in turn, helps ground your child’s feeling for his body. Vestibular information to the brain is provided by the small structures inside the inner ear and is triggered with swinging movements, either back and forth in a regular swing or when spinning around on a tire.

The slide is also another great activity for posture strengthening. Climbing the ladder promotes alternating movements of both sides of the body which is helpful in developing athletic skills.

Monkey bars promote hand strength, a strong upper body and the “timing” to promote coordinated and fluid movements. This activity is ideal for promoting strong hand writing skills in the future; it also promotes upper-body endurance which can combat the fatigue felt from sitting in a classroom chair.

The see saw is another fun and challenging activity that works on communication with a partner, timing, strengthening, balance and coordination.

We learn how to move through trial and error; the playground is the perfect opportunity to promote fun trial and error opportunities. Please make the time for the playground. Not only will your child sleep better that night, but his body will be stronger so that he can sit up easier in the classroom and pay better attention in the classroom environment.

Amanda Math MPT, is the principal Physical Therapist at Jumping Jax.  She has extensive experience working with children of all ages.  Amanda has been evaluating and treating infants, toddlers and children with a wide variety of developmental, neurological, musculoskeletal, and congenital impairments. She incorporates her passion for physical therapy with her love of athletics and has completed extensive course work.  Amanda has presented multiple workshops for Special Education Preschools and Elementary Schools throughout her career on a variety of developmental, neurological and musculoskeletal topics. 

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