A good playground not only provides kids with countless hours of playtime and exercise, but can help tie a community together by serving as common space for families to come together. For over 150 years, playgrounds in parks, community centers, schools, museums, and malls have been benefiting kids, their families, and entire communities around the world. Whether it’s simple playground equipment like slides and swings, or 40’ foot outdoor vertical mazes, kids, communities, and institutions can benefit from public playscapes.
Playgrounds add function to public spaces which give communities more reasons to gather there. Parks and fields don’t always have clear, accessible functions, and pitches and courts for sports can be exclusive to some children. A playground is a free and safe area that encourages the common, shared experience of play - no matter the children’s ability, age, or interests.
The strong sense of community that playgrounds create comes from bringing people together who might not have crossed paths elsewhere. Parents can talk to parents, kids can climb and swing and run around with other kids, and neighborhoods can get to know each other all by coming together in the name of play.
Many organizations take advantage of the community-building benefits of playgrounds. Public parks, as well areas like community centers, churches, malls, restaurants, and zoos often observe more foot traffic, business, and attendance when they construct play spaces, and their visitors are more likely to stay longer and return.
Well-maintained playground equipment offers kids a unique playing experience they can’t get at home, on a sports team, or in gym class.
Climbing exercises more muscles in the body than most sports while allowing kids to work at their own pace. And most of the time, kids are having too much fun climbing and playing to even realize all the good they’re doing for their body.
Most modern playgrounds also keep safety a top priority. Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their kids while they play, and kids don’t want to be restricted in how they play. All of our Climber, for example, are designed to rarely have more than an eighteen-inch gap between platforms. They’re also laid out in non-cascading patterns to eliminate the risk of sliding down multiple climbing pads so that kids can focus on climbing, not worrying about falling.
There have been decades of research on childhood developmental benefits from play. Taking time each day to climb and play has been shown to boost cooperation skills, communication, problem-solving, and balance in children.
Not only does playing and climbing improve these cognitive functions, but it also helps kids be better learners. Recess in elementary school enhances students’ well-being and makes them more receptive to lessons and more positive throughout the school day. Play-spaces in education environments like museums help to expose children to the arts and sciences while making the educational process more enjoyable.
Perhaps most important to childhood development is free, unscheduled, unstructured play, which the American Journal of Play has noted to be in steady decline over the past few decades. As parents and teachers have been increasingly controlling children’s play schedules and activities (and often cutting time for school recess), a Boston College study found links to increased depression and anxiety in kids.
When kids looking up at one of our Climbers, which often feature multiple routes and complex, maze-like challenges, they are encouraged to plan out their route independently or coordinate with other kids to help each other reach the top. The critical thinking and social skills kids use to get to the top help them understand other people, hone language skills, and think abstractly and creatively.
Scientists believe that free play is not just more fun for kids than scheduled activities or screen time, but is crucial for teaching them how to both work together and independently. Free play also has been shown to selectively prune overabundant cortical brain cells, which could help kids mature socially. Kids who play freely often learn to predict, interpret, and respond to other kid’s actions at an earlier age. According to education experts Olivia Saracho and Bernard Spodek, this could help kids work together, share, negotiate, and resolve problems in collaborative and group settings.
And the positive social and mental impacts of play on the brain can be seen almost immediately. In experiments at Washington State University, scientists observed that about one-third of neocortical genes in rats that had just played for half an hour showed significant increases in activity. The same could be true for kids, which is why many scientists suggest increasing recess and play time in school.
Our Climbers are transforming how kids are interacting with each other, as well as how they are learning. Many of our Climbers in schools and museums are creating easier paths toward STEM subjects, art, and education by making these subjects more enticing and hands on.