Playground Fun and Healthy Development for Toddlers
Infants and toddlers experience the swiftest amount of growth and development that they ever will at their early ages. It is during this period that they begin to form an understanding about the world around them, and they learn the most through play. At all ages and stages of development, physical activity offers a number of cognitive, behavioral, and physical fitness benefits for children. And when it is fun? That is even better!
Parents and caregivers that seek out age appropriate playgrounds for toddlers can enhance their child’s learning outcomes with healthy play. There are five key activities with developmental benefits for toddlers under the age of two years.
Before children can walk, they have to learn how to stand, and balance can be tricky for toddlers. Commercial playground structures designed for toddlers feature height adjusted handles and components that make it easy to get a good grip and support themselves. Toddlers that are able to reach safe railing or handles will experiment by pulling themselves up, developing the essential leg muscles and the control they will need in order to walk. They also develop torso and arm strength while practicing that tricky balance thing.
When you are a toddler that hasn’t yet mastered walking, then a fast paced crawl is the first benchmark that you work to develop. Sitting on a blanket waiting while there is a whole big world to explore loses its appeal rather quickly. Crawling improves hand-eye coordination, so even toddlers who have learned to walk sufficiently should be encouraged to crawl while on the playground.
Playground equipment designed for toddlers includes short crawl tunnels and fun obstacles that are visually and physically engaging. The play structure’s components compel children to crawl through to see more features and to access fun activity panels.
Older toddlers who have learned to walk independently can enjoy playground equipment that offers interactive activities and panels. These activity items are strategically placed at the right height to be accessible while standing, encouraging children to stay on “two feet” while being entertained in a fun way. Commercial play structures for toddlers will provide surfaces and rails to lean on to encourage a sustained standing position helping children further develop their leg muscles, mobility, and balance.
When toddlers are over the excitement of crawling and walking, the next frontier is the exploration of their natural world by climbing. This phase remains with children throughout their adolescence, and there is nothing more invigorating than climbing to the top of something higher than the ground you started on. Children love to climb, and should be encouraged to do so for their own healthy development.
Commercial playground equipment designed for children aged 6-23 months include modified climbing apparatus and components which make it safe for them to indulge their inner mountain climber. Fall heights for equipment are typically less than 14” to avoid injury, and an approved playground surfacing material is always recommended underneath climbing structures for additional safety.
Communication skills can be rapidly advanced with exposure to other toddlers. While children under 24 months may not be able to hold conversations as you and I might, but they use visual cues and body language to communicate fluently with other children.
Create communication opportunities by participating in play dates or seeking out other parents and toddlers at your local community playground. While parents may not hear a single word, there will be a whole lot of sharing and learning going on between toddlers that will accelerate their skills and comfort in social settings.
Daycare centers, churches, health care facilities, and other organizations are augmenting their current playgrounds to include play structures designed for toddlers. It is a positive trend that encourages parents and tots to get outdoors and enjoy fun, safe activities at their local park.