Apart from getting your children out of the house during the school holidays, why is the humble park so important for your child’s development?
Children’s occupational therapist, Carlien Badenhorst from Kids First in Sydney’s northern beaches explains….
Nearly every piece of equipment in the park plays an important part in developing your child’s gross motor skills. The spinning and swinging equipment supports the activation of the vestibular system, which is your child’s sense of balance and spatial orientation.
The monkey bars and climbing equipment provide proprioceptive input to the muscles which is important for your child’s arm, finger and core strength. It also teaches your child how to use both sides of the body together. This helps your child to develop those skills that help them to successfully learn how to kick and catch balls, balance on a skateboard or swim.
Not only do these activities support gross motor skills, they further support our academic skills. The development of your child’s core, postural, arm, hand and finger strength supports your child’s ability to hold a steady posture to enable us to complete tasks like handwriting. The efficient development of the vestibular system is necessary for maintaining attention, supporting emotional regulation and reading skills. Together, these early experiences of touch, movement, visual and auditory input help set your kids up for academic success.
The park provides kids with an opportunity to ‘practice’ the social skills your child will require for successful interaction with kids and adults alike. It is often here where kids learn how to approach new friends, wait their turn for equipment or compromise. Additionally, it provides an excellent platform for kids to play. Play is the ‘job’ of kids, and it encourages the development of language, creativity and imagination to name only a few.
Research shows that children considered open public spaces such as parks or beaches to be their favourite place to participate in physical activity. With the rising obesity rates in our children and adults, the importance of encouraging enjoyable, active play in our children significantly increases.
As it turns out, ‘getting some fresh air’ is very important for our health! Children benefit from learning about and from nature by immersing themselves in it. In the modern world, kids are spending more time inside buildings when they attend day-care, preschool or school. By encouraging outdoor play, you are therefore helping your child to develop a love for nature which includes exposure to dirt, water, sand, plants and nature sounds. This is important for the integration of your child’s different sensory systems.Next time your child spins on a merry-go-round, goes down a slide or comes home covered in dirt, you can rest assured that it is all part of their developmental roadmap!