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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Thursday, March 27, 2014

Themed Playgrounds Teach Kids Creativity and Reality

All-day fancy-filled and dynamic themed play times are a child’s reality and the door that paves the way to endless possibilities. The backyard playground or the very accessible community play space is where this unadulterated and usually larger-than-life dream begins. As soon as a child learns to speak and see the world through the eyes of someone who does not know fear and caution, prepare to get the most ambitious goals that will put a stop to the world’s most sought after shakers and movers. Some kids, on the other hand, are brought up by adventurous parents who spend their family time outdoors, up close and personal with nature. A zoo, a park, a museum, or simply playing with Mother Nature’s landscape –mud, gushing water, rocks, and the gentle breeze –gives birth to kids who are equipped with  access to free play that fosters creativity while honing their critical spheres, too.

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Revisiting pretend play means unearthing creativity and critical thinking. 
The time for revisiting the good old backyard playground must be taken seriously these days. Tapping the reality that creativity is honed during themed playtime is a practical and highly beneficial learning method, or parenting tip that can be easily weaved with both the routine of children and adults, too. More importantly, even kids with special needs can now take a more active part as creatively and safely-designed accessible playgrounds abound. Indeed when parents and educators re-instill the precious time for community playground activities, learning is made better, faster, and easier.

Rediscovering Children’s Development
The modern and fast-paced world’s view of promoting the boost of children’s development seem to forget the power of free play and the ideals that were embraced by kids through countless hours spent in the classic pretend play. Parents and educational institutions have dismissed the possibilities and realities that were unlocked by kids during afternoons spent in the playground. No longer viewed as creative hub, community playgrounds have lost their supply of fancy frills as kids spend more time training, exercising, dieting, and crafting skills that would make them more competent and empowered. In fact, a child’s eight-hour unstructured play time has been long forgotten, and sadly, even unconsciously forbidden.  

Children are policed when they waste their time on imagining and acting as though they are the heroes and heroines of the stories they breathe life to with the aid of outlandish thoughts like pretending to be a baby bear, a pirate, or a mermaid and are prohibited or discouraged to let their minds wonder and wander. With all the intricacies of nurturing development at such a tender age, children are forced to grow up quickly, as they bite more than they can chew.  Studies have shown that kids’ developmental stages are currently under different colossal challenges. The emotive and cognitive spheres of children were evidently poorer across a 60-year period. Reportedly, the kids within the 5-year old range possess the self-control ability of 3-year old counterparts. 

Forging an alliance with highly competitive activities like ego-shattering sports, glossy yet brutal beauty pageants, and even reality shows featuring kids who are obviously too young and too stressed, has taken the place of free play. While these are not entirely damaging, the problems that were brought about by this forced and cookie-cutter development abound. At present, it is typical to come across kids who are socially awkward as they are too much focused on their tablets and smart phones even when inside a room teeming with kids their age. Of course, the lack of real interaction among other kids and adults has impacted the empathy that is supposedly welcomed and imbibed by children. Another pressing and alarming issue lies on the steady increase of children who are to temper the tide of autism due to the special needs that would determine their futures, too.

Old School is Gold School
What can forget play spaces in backyards and artful playground landscapes do to teach creativity to kids, then?

Pretend play is a tried and tested learning method that allows kids to be themselves while going beyond themselves. Since the kids effortlessly involve themselves as they build their character and weave their stories, they are able to see an idea, a situation or even a problem in their own way, and style. They then allow other kids to be in their world without having to feel shy or anxious as they are playing after all. While bullies still try to string their mischief on the pretend play space, more often than not, teachers and parents address bullying in a better stance. A trick that has worked wonders is by encouraging the bully and the victim to come together in a fantasy play scenario and place them in a situation where there is a friendlier and more colorful landscape. The bully may be a larger animal, an owl for instance, while the victim may be a rabbit. The lesson of empathy and giving regard others can be communicated to kids without having to scold them or force them to make peace.

From Pretending to Achieving
Kids who dream big carry their dreams with them as they grow. When you ask a renowned archeologist, a celebrated musician or an in-demand architect where the dream began, they would most likely say it came to them during the years when they do not actually know how to carry a tune, to draw a straight line or to tell what kind of rock they took home was. All they had were makeshift toys and a hefty serving of limitless imaginative quirks when they play with their neighbors. As they move along the landscape of their playtime, they find themselves gaining more interest with the things they dreamt of and sighed over when they were young. Their curiosity soars far better than those who did not experience its ebbs and flow. 

On the other hand, teachers can look into the exciting possibilities of taking their students to a quick field trip to a commercial playground found within their area. On top of allowing kids to experience a little thrill, teachers can even up the ante of students via a simple session with tic-tac-toe panels. This overused game is a proven way to rouse the spatial skills that kids and even adults need as they delve into abstract reasoning and thinking. Playground equipments like the tic-tac-toe are designed with more than play time in mind. At present, parents and teachers can be assured that playgrounds encourage kids to learn and play, and vice versa.  

Eye on the Prize: A Physical and Mental Exercise  

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Revisiting pretend play means unearthing creativity and critical thinking.

A more balanced and focused mental development derived from playground time always go with enhancing physical fitness. Studies have shown that kids who are more active are actually better learners. Through themed play, kids repurpose playground staples as they purposefully act on something while playing. They dig the earth to uncover a new species of a dinosaur. They can come together to visit a pristine countryside through a train ride. They can save the day by putting out a huge forest fire through the aid of a fire truck and a crocodile. They strengthen their bodies and stretch their muscles as they breathe air that is not produced artificially. They no longer shun the sun as they get a healthy dose of Vitamin D that is needed for bone development. Their coordination, stamina and agility shoot up without them knowing it. And more notably, they get to burn calories from too much fast food.

End Apathy, Enter Empathy
Kids come together and work better in a group when themed play enters the picture. Empathy then is no longer something that needs to be taught in class as it is weaved in the stories that the kids authored with the help of those around them. Since accessible playgrounds have been mandated by the government and are also advocated by a good number of parenting groups and educational organizations, kids with autism are given the chance to have a more worthwhile interaction with other kids. Children with special needs may find it a bit tricky to huddle with other kids, but when they see that playgrounds do have a space for them; they would most likely see other children with special needs who get a natural dose of healthy and happy high from swinging, or shooting some hoops. Children of all ages get to set aside their difference and preferences as the older children learn to give way and help out younger kids to climb and conquer varied heights found in play spaces.

A residential area with kids would surely benefit from starting a residential playground. Kids and their families can gather on weekends and end the day with a barbecue party for everyone. This way the community learns about the whereabouts and lives of their neighbors without appearing intrusive. They no longer have to deal with the nuances of awkward small talks and silent nods when they see each other across the street.   
  
Fantasy Pulse Meets Reality Push

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Community builds stronger bonds when kids and adults come together.

Seeing a challenge in a creative and pretend-play mindset brings in more new yet doable solutions or answers that would stir critical thinking largely determines a child’s development. More importantly, the power of themed play stems from its potency to make kids think in a very different way while making them see their world as they explore the world that goes beyond their world –the world where they interact and learn with other kids and adults, too.
Parents and educators who want to instill creativity in kids must go back to the golden lessons of old school playground equipment. The energy, time, and resources spent in fantasy play whether by indulging in a space exploration while riding horse (when it’s in fact a seesaw) on a snowy day, or building a world out of Lego, pancakes and paper dolls on a summer morning, may actually give birth to more creative solutions that this world aches for.

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