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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Kids’ Playground Happiness Meter

Across the globe, children agree that their sources of happiness lie in strong family ties, a solid group of friends, and of course, engaging in quality play time. Then again, the same study revealed that as kids get older, their happiness levels drop.


As a matter of fact, 58% of six-year-olds think that the world is good; but as they reach twelve years old, only 41% would agree with the former statement. The common contributors to the stress among children are having to cope with dysfunctional homes which may include divorce, drastic changes in schools, peer pressure, and the violence that they are exposed to at home and in their neighborhood.

Kids Are Likely To Fail The Stress Test
Prolonged exposure to these kinds of stresses is likely to yield health problems and even faster biological aging. Idan Shalev, a researcher from Duke University noted that stressed out kids are indeed ‘older’ than their peers who are not experiencing uneventful strains. These circumstances translate to children who have less social skills for fear of bullying, and a very big possibility of clinging to their gadgets in the hopes of escaping the harsh realities that they may be fed up with. The result? Lack of physical and social activities that further put children at a very unsteady stance. Due to high inactivity, only 1 out of 3 kids these days can be considered physically active. Similarly, only 40% of children would go for outdoor play over TV or computer time.

Playtime: The Happiness Game Time
You may ask, where is playtime in all of these? Kids who play actively and are more socially-rounded are less likely to fall into the tangles of unhappiness. A study reported that the absence of play among children of all ages is directly proportional to depression and even suicide rates among teens.

While parents tend to rely heavily on schools to bridge the gap between happy kids and play-enriched kids, Shawn Achor, researcher and speaker, said that simple activities may open kids to a new form of thinking better, and healthier, too. He even challenged parents and educators that they must come together to help kids attain a happy mindset that begins with cohesive, co-dependent mindset shift. Achor supported this claim with a finding that states the possibility of rewiring the brain of kids in order to make them more optimistic. This practice though would take a long time, but he believes that doing so will yield a better future for children who are bombarded with the modern world’s unnecessary yet prevalent formula for happiness. Achor is an advocate of increasing happiness in order to increase the likelihood of success - a counter-intuitive and unpopular approach. He said that this method is the antidote to the existing formula which does not work, and even fails terribly.

A Happy Kid Is A Successful Kid In-The-Making
Since kids equate happiness to connecting with others and playing, we at Playground Equipment have come up with a Playground Happiness Meter. Taking the lead from Achor, we firmly believe that happiness is the best, and fail-proof way to attain success. With this said, we juxtapose play time with the benefits that go with it - child development spheres - that are key factors in a successful life after serious childhood play time.

The indicators that we used for this happiness meter are as follows:

Cognitive Development - involves focus, control, creativity, discovery, problem-solving, and reasoning; it entails exposure and through experience

Emotional Development - the core of a sound mental state alongside well-being; positivity, self-esteem, humor, independence; largely about the self

Social Development - comes into play as soon as the child interacts with others; communication skills; being able to function in an interactive environment; being comfortable with his role in a group (family, friends, school, etc.)

Physical Development - most distinguishable among all indicators; locomotory skills, over-all coordination; also covers diet


Combat your shyness with a happy high, that feels as though you fly.

Swing
Cognitive: 4 smiles
Emotional: 4 smiles
Social: 3 smiles
Physical: 3 smiles
Overall: 3.5/5 smiles

A simple swing ride is best for kids who are either new to the playground or those who are yet to go full swing in interacting with other kids. Riding a swing spells the happy high that kids (and even adults) fancy - a grand time to fly. The motion that allows them to feel the air and go all the way up to witness a different perspective stirs their creative side. Since this equipment generally houses one child at a time, focus and control are two things that are sharpened without an ounce of grand effort.

For those parents and child caregivers who have kids with Down syndrome, just like Noah, an afternoon of swinging is sure to be filled with laughs and giggles. In between fun time, these sessions aid in warming up his muscles that enable him to sit longer and steadier. More importantly, swing rides also improve balance as it keeps the vestibular system in shape.


They got a ticket to slide.

Slide
Cognitive: 3 smiles
Emotional: 3 smiles
Social: 5 smiles
Physical: 5 smiles
Overall: 4/5 smiles

To go up and down a slide is largely a physical activity. Quality time spent on a slide is a proven way to improve cardiovascular health on top of boosting stamina and energy. Research shows that while walking and running are good, going for a climb needs more effort since kids are to go against gravity. The reward comes when they reach the top and go down and feel as though they are weightless.

As kids take turns in lining up for it, they are bound to get out of their comfort zone and interact with their peers. If you are new in the neighborhood or you would want to welcome the new family next door, chatting in between assisting your kids is a good way to jump-start a conversation and foster a connection with the help of these slides.


Physics Basics, anyone?

Seesaw
Cognitive: 4 smiles
Emotional: 5 smiles
Social :5 smiles
Physical: 3 smiles
Overall: 4.25/5 smiles

A see-saw is a handy communication and collaboration tool for kids who are learning the ropes of socializing with others. Since kids see each other face to face, they are very likely to engage in a small talk that can progress more easily, and more effortlessly. What’s even nicer is that you can keep an eye on your kids from a distance, and even get the chance to talk to the parent of the other kid with whom your child is playing with - because of this winning combo, the see-saw deserves a 5-star rating for both social and emotional development.

The teeter totter is said to introduce physics to kids in an unassuming way. As kids collectively play, they get to learn together. Say hello to the fundamental concepts such as inertia, and the various kinds of forces, even before they enter school.


Collaborative learning while a happy ride in the morning!

Merry-Go-Round
Cognitive: 3 smiles
Emotional: 5 smiles
Social: 5 smiles
Physical: 4 smiles
Overall: 4.25/5 smiles

Since Merry-Go-Round needs solid group effort, this is one of the best socially-inclined play equipment. It brings together more than 4 kids at a time, so the trick behind the most enjoyable ride lies on how kids think and work collaboratively. Cooperation is a key element in a happy relationship - be it a home, in the community, the church or at school.



Improve upper body strength while reaching the end of your climb.

Monkey Bars/Overhead Climbers
Cognitive: 5 smiles
Emotional: 5 smiles
Social: 3 smiles
Physical: 5 smiles
Overall: 4.5/5 smiles

The monkey bar is one of the most challenging play equipment to date. After all, American kids have extremely poor upper body strength. Did you know that a single pull cannot be performed by 30% of boys and 60% of girls?

Reaching the other end of a monkey bar does not only require a lot of power, as it also calls for sheer willpower. It entails focus and control (cognitive) that must be coupled with a good sense of self-esteem and positivity (emotional). This takes a lot of practice and long hours of dedication, too. Then again, that first success that comes as soon as children reach the other side is something that they hold dear to the heart no matter how old they get.

Pass On The Meter
The next time you and your kids visit your community playground or ride a swing or a slide in your backyard, you are surely on the track to a happy, bouncy, and healthy place. For those of you who are always in contact with your kids’ daycare, school, or your local church, sharing the piece of information might go a long way, too. Get in touch with us should you need help in building the happiest place for your kids to love and learn from!

Learn about the author: Jennifer Holmes

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