Why Play on the Playground?

Earlier this fall, our family of 3 took a brave vacation to Europe. One of the best things about vacationing is changing your surroundings, getting out of your comfort zone, and learning just through experience

(I could go on about travel tips with a one year old, but we’ll save that for another time.)

Traveling with our kiddo was different. Instead of searching for wine bars, we were hunting down playgrounds on city maps. Instead of sleeping in on weekdays, we sought out the finest bakeries in our hoods at the opening time. Nothing beats a piping hot pastry. Ahhh, vacation indulgence.

Check out that spider web in the back!
Check out that spider web in the back!

The playground search became a thing. Of all the spots we traveled to, The Luxembourg Gardens won my heart. Uneven and unsteady climbs, small slides, big slides, a sand pit, massive trees, rope bridges, and did I mention… zip lining?!?!

You just don’t see those kinds of things at an American playground. Europeans have been in the forefront of allowing kids to entertain “risky behaviors” during play, and for no other purposes but for learning and exploration. We have to remember that for children, play is their job. And with busy schedules, errands to be ran, and sometimes some helicopter parenting… we forget that this is what they’re supposed to do.

5 Reasons why you should bring your kid to a playground, right now:

1. Problem solving. They’re learning how to conquer something new. Typically learning through the guess and check method, but their brains are firing and working hard to figure out “well how far do I have to duck so that I can fit under here?”

2. Self-discovery and self-expression. After they’ve figured out what they can do easily and what requires a bit more problem solving, they start to develop self-confidence and can feel proud of a new. What a great conversation topic for post playground antics.

3. Repetition. Doing something again and again strengthens brain pathways. So your kiddo is integrating motor, sensory, emotional, and language experiences. Stronger pathways means faster processing.

4. Social skills. You know what’s great about a playground? The ease of unplanned play dates. Kids learn from each other. They thrive from the social interaction, turn taking, communication, and learning empathy (we always send hugs to a new friend that’s sad from a fall, and needs some TLC).

5. Imagination overload. Slides can be towers, monkey bars can be a swamp, sand pits can be parking lots and construction sites… Your child can transform into a king, queen, guard, fireman, Mom, Dad, etc. The pretend play is where language and cognition meet and do a happy brain dance together.FullSizeRender-1

Here in San Francisco, we’ve become creatures of habit and go to the same one or two playgrounds in walking distance of our apartment. Great for repetition and forming expectation, but sometimes you gotta switch it up a bit. We try to venture to some indoor playspaces and meet friends at new spots too. 

Is it getting chilly where you are? Bring the playground inside. Throw some pillows and couch blankets on the floor and practice crawling, hopping, climbing right in your living room.

Now I want to hear from you! What’s your kiddo’s favorite thing at the playground? Swings, slide, sandbox? Is there something incredible at your playground that your child can't get enough from? Share it with us in the comments below!

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