Importance of Play for Children

Play is fundamentally human. It’s something that makes life fun and worth living. It’s one of the seven fundamental factors for human survival. So play is right up there together with getting nutrition, together with experience and love and safety, together with sleeping and so on. Play is fundamental for our social development, for our physical development, but also for our cognitive development.

How Much Exercise we Need Vs how Much we do

More than 70% of the population in the Western World live in densely populated cities with limited space for outdoor play. In the USA, for example, children spend seven and a half hours per day, on average, on screen-based activities. To stay healthy, children need a minimum of 60 minutes a day doing some form of physical activity. The World Health Organization defines physical activity for children as play, first and foremost. So, some cities have made policies for the proximity of playgrounds and set a goal of a 10-minute walk to the nearest recreational area.

It’s important that we provide opportunities for residents of diverse ages, diverse abilities, and interests to recreate, to socialize, to be engaged and to be challenged, but also to have a respite from the city environment.

What Makes a Good Play Area?

A good play area is highly important to motivate and attract children to play. For example, great school playground equipment should also make children and families say, ‘Wow,’ and feel an urge to play on it. You should see kids just running to it to play on it. 

They should want to run to it and check it out because it’s unique and stands out. To make children and families stay and come back again and again, a great playground should offer a wide variety of play.

There’s a lot of talk now about the obesity issues in the UK with children. And at some point in the future when we return to somewhat of a normality, we should have a number of play elements easily available. And this is not just for a certain age group. The way that we design the play area and structure’s allows kids to come out and not be bored within 15 to 20 minutes.

What Skills are Nurtured with Play?

While children are playing, a great playground should stimulate the children’s development, their physical, cognitive, creative, and social skills, the skills that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives. And play matters greatly for a child’s development. This is backed by extensive research. Professor Heckman of the University of Chicago, even argues that investment in early childhood education is the best investment in education that societies can make.

Play Areas Should be Inclusive

Upon carrying out projects for schools, the Kompan Play Institute makes sure all projects are inclusive so that there is something that all of the children can access. Using Boothville Primary School as an example, there was a range of different things for all the kids to do, encompassing all of the different areas of learning, not just the physical development side. There was also a sensory approach to the equipment as well, so the children could be feeling it. And there was lots of language opportunity, which is something that was on our development plans.

Research Behind Play Areas

KOMPAN Play Institute, KOMPAN’s in-house Playground Research Department studies changes in childhood and helps develop and assess purposeful play designs. The Play Institute draws upon an external network of experts and collaborates with universities in order to stay at the forefront of research.

The KOMPAN Play Institute dates back from the ’80s. So KOMPAN was the first company to actually take on the challenge of documenting their knowledge in children’s play in playgrounds. So, when we venture into a development project, we have always thoroughly researched the backgrounds of children, to date.

Importance of Tests and a Universal Design

But the true experts of play are the children. So in their development, children are invited to test, play and comment on our new concepts. These tests ensure age appropriateness and that the products support relevant development points within the given age range. KOMPAN is highly dedicated to the principles of universal design. This means developing inclusive playgrounds that invite children of all ages and abilities to play together. KOMPAN’s philosophy is clear, no one should be excluded. Another point which should be touched on is playground inspection. Although the insight from running various tests is almost invaluable, we also urge many playground owners to ensure that they are doing basic maintenance when needed. This is a simple thing which only helps to make the playground experience better for the children.

We all have an important responsibility in motivating outdoor play, because great playgrounds positively influence children’s wellbeing and foster important life skills. Great playgrounds also serve as a meeting point where friendships are made.

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