This post was sponsored by Landscape Structures as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. All opinions expressed in my post are my own.
A few years ago, when my son was only 2 years old, I remember sitting at the park on a hot summer day. It was balmy outside, there was no shade to seek refuge under and all I wanted to do was go home and cool down. However, something stopped me.
I recalled a conversation I had with my pastor’s wife a few days earlier. I was on the phone with her complaining about how much time I spent at the park these days and she abruptly interrupted my conversation. She said, “Jilleen, you need to spend more time in the sand box.” I immediately thought “what?” I don’t play in the sandbox, my son does. But that was her point! I needed to get off the bench and into the sandbox with my son. He would only be little for so long and my sphere of influence would only last so many years.
Looking back on my own childhood, I appreciate the effect playground experiences had on who I ultimately became. I remember staying out till dusk playing with my friends on the swings and riding our bikes around and around at the park. As a child, the playground stimulated good conversation and created opportunities for community, imagination and true bravery. These crucial, formative experiences shaped my friends and I into thinkers, dreamers and leaders.
How Children Learn Through Play
Play is important for teaching children four essesntial life skills – persistence, leadership, competition and bravery.
Play Teaches Persistence
Perseverance is one of the most highly studied areas of success. Persistence is something children need in order to succeed in life and school. The good news? Persistence is a trait that can be taught and learned. It’s just a matter of knowing how to help your children — and not giving up on them when they want to give up on themselves.
For example, when you see your child struggling to get across the monkey bars at the park, it’s tempting to jump in and help them. However, humans learn by trial and error. So, by giving kids a chance to fail, we also give them the pleasure of succeeding on their own.
Play Teaches Leadership
When children play tag at the park, someone has to be in charge, right? The leader has to assign partners, line up the participants and say when to “go”. Providing children the opportunity to practice their leadership skills on the playground, prepares children for future leadership roles at school and in the workplace.
Play Encourages Competition
To some parents, “competition” is a dirty word. They believe it puts too much pressure on kids to perform and causes unnecessary stress. So instead, to shield their kids from disappointment, many well-meaning moms and dads either declare everyone a winner or avoid competitive situations altogether.
However, a little dose of healthy competition can be good for kids! Besides setting them up for wins and losses later in life, competitive activities help kids develop important life skills that they’ll use well into adulthood – such as taking turns, developing empathy and instilling perseverance.
Play Teaches Bravery
Imagine how much bravery it requires for a young whobbly 1-year-old to go down a slide? Or how much strength a timid 5-year-old must muster up in order to throw out the first pitch at a ballgame? It requires a lot.
Being brave requires a plan, even if it’s in the the spur of the moment. You have to plan how you are going to get from point A to point B successfully. It may even require that you have contingency plans, including what to do if X, Y, and Z might happen. Bravery teaches children to push through fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and do the things that feel hard or risky or frightening.
A strong supporter of play in my own local community is the global playground manufacturer Landscape Structures. They have teamed up with University of Minnesota’s Institute of Childhood Development to research how play helps develop the whole child by creating leaders, encouraging collaboration, and teaching about the values of persistence and problem solving.
Together, they have shown how important playgrounds are to a local community. They are a place for play and learning, where children develop in the areas of leadership, teamwork, perseverance, and where they build valuable social relationships. This research has inspired Landscape Structures to continue to build playgrounds that benefit people of all ages and abilities.
For more information, watch this awe inspiring video by shapedbyplay.com that celebrates the promise of our future as kids play and develop skills that shape them as adults on the playground.
Enjoy spending more time with your child in the sandbox!