Six Elements of Play
When we design a playground, we consider what types of equipment to incorporate into the design that will encourage children to move, be physically active, and help develop important fitness skills. A well-designed play space provides a critical opportunity to address the needs of the whole child and offer a wide variety of activities that motivate, engage, and challenge all children.
The following design considerations are evidence-based strategies for promoting fitness and physical activity on the playground:
Continuum of Skill Development - Provide a developmental progression of skills by selecting equipment for beginning, intermediate, and advanced level users that will promote healthy risk taking.
Active Play - Disperse equipment and consider pathway layouts for configurations that will encourage movement through running, chasing, exploring, and active play.
And last but not least, Variety - Offer various elements of play such as:
1. Balancing: Increases understanding of efficient body positioning and control, principles of gravity, equilibrium, base of support, and counterbalancing. Promotes muscular strength and endurance throughout the entire body.
2. Climbing: Enhances spatial awareness and coordination. Fosters whole-body muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility.
3. Sliding: Enhances core stability, dynamic balance, and leg and hip flexibility. Provides body and spatial awareness experience.
4. Spinning: Develops kinesthetic awareness and postural control. Improves understanding of speed, force, and directional qualities of movement.
5. Brachiating: (overhead ladders): Improves muscular strength and endurance. Promotes hand/eye coordination and rhythmic body movement.
6. Swinging: Promotes aerobic fitness, muscular force, and whole body awareness. Emphasizes the importance of timely energy transfer during movement.
There should be careful thought given to the equipment selected for your playground. It’s not about having the biggest or tallest play structure but about creating a well-rounded play space that is usable and enjoyable for the greatest number of people, providing the widest opportunity for skill development and engagement.