Choosing Age-Appropriate Play Equipment
Kids love to explore their senses as they play. Sensory walls are great for allowing them to try different textures, sounds and sights.
Keeping kids safe is important on playground equipment, too. This means making sure the ground under jungle gyms and slides is covered, avoiding climbing outside guardrails and using equipment responsibly — like sliding feet-first or never riding in groups.
Age-appropriate play equipment is vital for keeping kids interested and engaged. Children who try to use playground equipment that is too large or advanced for them may become frustrated and discouraged from playing at all. When designing age-appropriate playground equipment, it is important to take into account children’s physical and cognitive abilities.
For example, toddlers need equipment that will be physically challenging for them, such as smaller climbers and bucket swings. They will also need to have a place for more imaginative, creative play, such as playhouses or similar structures for pretend play. Preschool-aged kids can use activity panels that offer multi-sensory experiences, such as textured and sensory mazes that stimulate their visual, auditory and touch senses.
In addition, preschool-aged kids have the mobility and coordination to play with multiple other kids. This is why it is important to include elements such as flexible spring rockers, which allow kids to spin around together and develop upper body strength.
Playgrounds for school-going kids can include many different types of equipment, such as spinning rides like maypoles, which require cooperation and upper body strength to maintain balance; play equipment curved slides and ramps that allow them to go down the slide multiple times; and spinners, which provide an experience similar to outdoor gross motor play but can be used indoors if there are space restrictions or weather conditions.
While you’re unlikely to find a kindergartner wearing a cast from the monkey bars, injuries can happen on playgrounds and home equipment. Injuries can be life threatening and debilitating, so it’s important to make sure that children use equipment that is designed for their age range and ability levels and that adults supervise them at all times.
Use impact attenuating surfacing beneath all play equipment to offer a softer landing in case of falls. This surfacing can be loose fill materials (such as bark or sand) or surface mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like material. For equipment more than 30 inches high, this surfacing should be at least 12 inches deep.
Look for guardrails and other boundary markings to prevent children from wandering into dangerous areas. Also check for head entrapment spaces, openings in guardrails and ladder rungs that could trap a child, and sharp points and edges on equipment.
If the equipment is wood, have it inspected annually for splinters and other hazards. Avoid taking donated or used equipment, since it may be prone to deterioration or have been improperly installed. If you do use equipment play equipment that has been a donation, have it professionally inspected and maintain it regularly. In addition, check that it complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards for soft contained play equipment.
Playground equipment is designed to encourage a wide variety of activities and social interactions. This is important for kids’ physical and mental health, as it helps them develop balance, strength, coordination and critical thinking skills. It also helps them develop their ability to collaborate and work with others of different ages.
A playground’s versatility can be increased by introducing musical instruments that help children learn how to read music. These can include metallophones, drums, marimbas and chimes. It’s also important to have areas for independent play, such as balance beams and trikes.
When choosing playground equipment, consider the age range of your kids and what they enjoy doing most. It’s also helpful to choose equipment that challenges them, so they won’t get bored with it quickly.
A playground should be separated into zones to avoid overcrowding and have clear pathways that allow children to move between activities. It should also have adequate visibility to ensure safety. In addition, the equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained to keep it in good condition.
Kids are naturally curious about water and playing with it provides a fun sensory experience for kids. It’s also an activity that can be done anywhere, with a kiddie pool, buckets, bins or even large cooking pots. When kids are able to splash, pour and explore they’re strengthening their hand muscles, developing their fine motor skills and improving coordination as well as their concentration abilities. Children also learn about scientific theories when experimenting with how objects like toys, slime, ice and soap interact with the water’s surface as well as learning about the concepts of float versus sink and shallow versus deep.
Children also use water play equipment to develop their understanding of volume and capacity as they fill and empty containers, measuring their efforts with a tape measure or simply comparing the capacities of different types of vessels. They’ll learn how water travels, whether through channels or pipes and what happens when you add a new material into the water such as sand.
While water play is great for children of all ages, it’s particularly beneficial for younger children who need to build their social and emotional skills. It encourages them to work together and learn how to communicate their ideas with one another as they plan how to make an idea a reality. This type of interaction is an essential part of early childhood education that prepares kids for success in school and beyond.