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How Does Large Play Equipment Help Children Develop?

by Erica Loop

Whether your little one has her own swing-set in the backyard, can't get enough of the climbing equipment at school or frequents the local playground, large play equipment can help your child to develop an array of gross motor skills. Climbing up ladders, whooshing down slides, running across bridges and tackling all of the other large climber-type equipment obstacles all are playful ways for young children to build and refine new movement abilities.

Basics

Although there is no tried and true absolute for defining "large play equipment," the title typically refers to equipment that promotes gross -- or large -- motor development. Primarily including large-sized fixtures such as climbers and sing-sets, other items, such as moon bouncers, trampolines or home gymnastics equipment, may also fall into this category of play equipment. According to the Encyclopedia of Children's Health, gross motor development includes the skills that large muscle groups allow kids to master, such as walking or running. Abilities such as balance and coordination also fall under the gross motor skills heading.

Physical Fitness

While your child doesn't need to hit the gym to get physically fit in the same way that you do, he does need to get some exercise every day in order to ensure healthy development. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Large play equipment provides a perfect opportunity for your child to get active as he jumps, leaps, climbs, swings and runs over the equipment. This can lead to overall healthy physical development and help your child to maintain an appropriate body weight.

Balance and Coordination

Large play equipment provides ample opportunities for your child to develop balance and coordination. For example, climbing up a ladder on the side of a slide offers your child the chance to coordinate her arm and leg motions as she moves from rung to rung and uses her balance skills to keep from falling down. Even fairly simple activities, such as running across a climber's bridge or swinging on a swing-set, take complex coordination efforts that help to build up gross motor abilities.

Imagination and Motor Development

Playing on a climber, swing-set or bounce house doesn't have to mean using straightforward motor movements. Although the traditional types of play -- such as running, climbing, swinging or hopping -- are all essential activities that help gross motor development, large play equipment can also spark your child's imagination and critical thinking skills development. For example, the National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests that kids use a simple balance beam to pretend that they are tightrope walkers or imagine that they are animals moving across the playground equipment. Incorporating pretend play into large equipment-based activities can spark your child's imagination and get him thinking about more than just running from one place to another.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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