Backyard Discovery Blog
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- Teaching kids to prevent playground injuries 03.10.2016
Outdoor Play on Your Wooden Swingset is Essential to Your Kids' Health
I have just returned from my nephew Wyatt’s fourth birthday party. What a hive of activity as little kids spent the morning running harem scarem, playing to their hearts’ content. I didn't hear a cry or a squeal, just the sounds of kids having fun, outdoors on a gloriously sunny day. The centrepiece to their fun was my sister’s wooden swingset and fort, with a large grassy area beside it for the kids to run to their hearts’ content.
Yes, I do have an advantage over many of you reading this - I am in a sunny climate, and there is no sign of snow, hail or even rain at the moment. However, I am sure that even in a colder climate the kids would want to be playing outside.
There were quite a few kids at the party, but they all gravitated to the wooden swingset. They weren’t all swinging or sliding, but they were all having fun. They were breathing in fresh air, taking in the sun rays (covered in sunscreen, of course, being in a warm climate), and enjoying the opportunity to be part of the natural environment.
As it was Wyatt’s birthday, he was lucky enough to receive lots of birthday presents - which his friends immediately commandeered to use in their play. You could almost see their minds operate as they conjured up ways to incorporate these toys into their games.
You could see how the wooden swingset and fort became levels of an Imperial Battlecruiser, as little boys flew their cruisers around the park, and battled each other with lightsabers. I blinked, and the area transformed into a battle scene from the Avengers, and I saw Iron Man and Hulk (Hulk Smash!) team up together on the slides against Ultron and Spiderman (I think there was some creative team building going on here).
The next I noticed was that the fort had become engulfed in bubbles (alright, this is an exaggeration, there were probably about 20 bubbles) as a couple of little girls enjoyed themselves with a pair of bubble blowers.
Left to their own devices (yet with plenty of adults supervising nearby as they cooked a barbecue lunch) the kids let their imaginations flow.
The youngsters had a real fascination with climbing. There was regularly a queue for the monkey bars, and the kids seemed to prefer the most difficult ways of getting to the fort, over simply climbing the stairs. They were certainly exercising their muscles as they climbed and clambered, both on the play equipment and in the nearby trees.
I can certainly see how beneficial outdoor play is to their muscle development, not to mention their large and small motor skills. It certainly helps them improve their coordination; much better than simply being allowed to turn into couch potatoes!
At the birthday party, kids threw their whole bodies into their outdoor play. They climbed, ran, jumped, swung, slid, hung by their arms (and sometimes their legs). They flexed their bodies in virtually any way possible. Even using the swings clearly used quite a few different muscle sets, from sending the swing into motion, through keeping it swinging, and then bringing to a stop.
My sister’s wooden swingset playground provided a lot of variety for the kids.There was something for all of the kids to enjoy, whether they were a toddler, a four-year-old, like the birthday boy, or a big kid of eight. Every child at the party found something that could challenge them and provide them with enjoyment.
We have an increasing problem of childhood obesity, due to a passive lifestyle most of the current generation seem to live. Many kids spend much of their life playing on a computer, games console, phone, or watching television, although even television seems old-fashioned to this generation. I have met quite a few parents who become totally obsessed with their kids’ safety and are not willing to let them take any risks at all.
Another problem faced by kids who rarely venture outdoors is that it doesn’t take long for them to succumb to bacteria and viruses. At least, our outdoor-playing children have a smaller chance of suffering from an infection, as most germs spread out and dissipate in the fresh outdoor air.
You could have an indoor-focused birthday, themed around the latest videogame. But I am sure that your kids will not enjoy it as much as the tribe who ran and climbed and slid and had imaginary battles as Avengers at Brax’s party today. There is no doubt to me that their time on the wooden swingset and the nearby grass was highly beneficial to their health today … even if the chocolate mud birthday cake that followed wasn’t quite as healthy. At least the kids, unlike the adults present, managed to work the excess calories off on the playset.