Childhood is a time of rapid development, as any parent can tell you. And as parents, you want to send your children to the best schools, let them watch the best educational shows, eat the healthiest foods and play with the safest toys in an effort to maximize that quick window of growth. It makes sense, then, that you should be concerned with what sort of opportunities various types of playground learning centers present for your children. From swings to music stations, here are five types of playground learning centers that foster kids’ development at the most crucial time in their stages of growth.
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Toddler Learning Centers
Since development stages vary from age to age, learning centers that cater to kids’ needs at different stages are growing in popularity. Play structures that are created for enhancing toddlers’ development should include props that facilitate crawling and balancing, like a set of rubber mushrooms for crawling on, or a basic balance beam with a handle for guidance.
Playground learning centers geared toward toddler-aged children may also feature playing stations for groups of kids. A fun table can allow your child to interact with other children, building social skills and developing individual and teamwork skills in the name of fun. A sandbox or water table can also provide opportunities for socializing and foster creativity. You may also see play stations that encourage vocabulary and numeric skills, or basic musical instruments such as a standing piano or glockenspiel.
Don’t expect large swings, ladders, slides, monkey bars or complicated mazes in a learning center for toddlers; these types of equipment are designed for older children and are too advanced for the toddler set.
Preschool Learning Centers
During the preschool years, children are busy making friends and enjoying personal growth. Your preschool-aged child is likely discovering and developing new individual abilities, and climbers and overhead ladders can help your child push the limits and explore. Riders and spinners shaped like animals or vehicles as well as bouncy-bounces, log rolls, balance beams and tunnels all offer new, physical challenges in coordination and cooperation. See-saws and swings are also common, which can help develop teamwork skills.
For cognitive development, look for basic puzzles and mazes. Play stations featuring the alphabet, basic games or painting are popular and can offer children the chance to interact with others. You should see an assortment of playground musical instruments as children of all ages love music. Musical instruments can also promote listening, language and math skills.
School-age Learning Centers
Once children reach school age, physical challenges become a popular activity. Playground learning centers geared toward this age range will focus on physical development, such as hand-eye coordination and muscle growth. Expect to see a lot of climbers, like ladders, monkey bars, rope ladders, balance beams and rock walls, and look for slides, which provide an adventurous way to get back down to the ground.
Mazes become more challenging and play stations become more complex with this variety of learning center. Bridges may require walking on a chain, pipe or lily pads to traverse. Alphabet panels become spelling panels and tic-tac-toe becomes a game of “concentration.”
Playground learning centers may be geared strictly toward cognitive development and real-world applications. These learning centers may be set up in such a way to simulate real-life activities or adventures. For example, a trike track could include stop signs, a gas station, a railroad crossing and traffic light signs. Others may resemble exotic locations, such as an ancient hidden temple or a pirate ship, allowing children to traverse bridges, ropes and ladders. These types of learning centers allow your child to flex their creative and intellectual muscles as they create their own adventures.
Sports and Fitness Learning Centers
A learning center geared completely toward sports may include a high number of fitness-related items such as balance beams, ladders, a jump-touch beam, parallel bars, chin up bars, a sit-up bench or a stretching post. You may also see games such as tetherball or triple toss, soccer goals or football goal posts.
Fitness and physical challenges provide ways for your child to stay fit, burn energy and keep on track with normal muscle development, all while having fun playing with their friends. They’ll learn cooperation and teamwork skills through sports and games.
Playground learning centers are more than just a vehicle for children to expend energy.
They can discover and develop valuable skills when playing at the right learning center, just like you want them to. From balancing and motion as a toddler to organized sports as a school-aged child, the right type of play center lays the foundation for proper development and makes learning a lot of fun!
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc. in Carrollton, GA. Playland Inc., is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to many industries, with its roots deep in the park and playground markets including churches, schools, and day care centers. It has developed into the only company in its field to offer direct to all of its customers, the ability to purchase outdoor playgrounds, shelters, shade, indoor playgrounds, water slides and site amenities. Connect with SII on LinkedIn or Facebook.