Playtime is essential for the social, mental and physical development of children. Many parents are very protective and fear what might happen on a playground, whether they are there or not. However, there are many advantages of playtime on a playground:
- Socialization skills: kids need kids. They need to interact with children their own age in order to develop language, coping, and interpersonal skills.
- Acceptance: small children 2-4 do not judge other children based on clothes, race or appearance. This acceptance is important in personal development, even for little ones. Barriers tend to form later, but unabashed social acceptance of a toddler is what the world should be about.
- Making friends: children tend to easily connect with other children on the playground. The more outgoing ones find one another, and the ones who enjoy more quiet play tend to gravitate to each other as well. Kids need to know there are other children like them in the world. Developing relationships while young helps the child to develop the same skills they will need when they enter school.
- Teamwork: A lot of classic social behaviors are exhibited on a playground, such as teamwork. Observe a sandbox; one child helps another dig a hole. Look at a swing; one child will help push the other. You may find a child at the bottom of a slide clapping for the child who just slid down. Simple acts of supporting one another develop a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment.
- Conflict resolution: sometimes kids get into disputes on a playground. How they approach these interactions can be an important part of their mental development. They need to learn how to get along, work out differences and make up. The more parents can allow this to happen naturally, the better.
- Modeling behavior: kids watch kids. They see a child trying something out of their comfort zone, such as going down a slide, and they try it too. They notice another child getting reprimanded for throwing sand, and they understand that is unacceptable. Watching and learning is an education itself.
- Fun with exercise: having fun on a playground is an ingredient for a happy child. Learning to create, make believe, laugh, tumble, jump, skip and play helps create a positive persona in all little tykes. A happy, tired little one means better naps and sleep later. Physical exertion is necessary with high levels of toddler energy!
Playground time is important, so try to work it into your schedule. It can benefit parents too as the downtime with their kids offers relaxed and happy memories together.