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Child's Play: The Importance of Play for Cognitive Development of Children Under 5 & the Role of Playgrounds

Child development is a transformative process that occurs biologically, psychologically, & emotionally among children from birth to adolescence. Several research and interest groups have evaluated the effect of play as a strong factor that promotes healthy development of children as there is a substantial link between play and brain development, motor-skills, and social capabilities. Playgrounds are one environment that foster play and can aid in healthy child development. When parents have access to free playgrounds, they are able to provide a safe environment for their children to play, have fun and thrive.

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Child development can be described as a process of transformation: biological, psychological, and emotional, that every child goes through from birth to adolescence. These changes involve processes such as learning and mastering skills like sitting, walking, talking, running around, and playing with toys, etc. These processes are often regarded as developmental milestones which a child achieves during predictable time periods.

Children develop skills in the following areas of development: 
  • Cognitive
  • Social, emotional, and educational
  • Speech and language
  • Motor-skills

These aforementioned areas can be achieved through the process of play. Several research and interest groups have evaluated the effect of play as a strong factor that promotes healthy development of a child. There is a substantial link between play and brain development, motor-skills and social capabilities. All learning – emotional, social, motor and cognitive – is accelerated, facilitated, and fueled by the pleasure of play.

Play can be simply defined as the process of having fun. It is a spontaneous activity of children. It includes many things: it can be done with the body (running, jumping, dancing); the mind (fantasy play); and words (jokes, singing). Play can also be fueled by curiosity and is driven by it. The concept of play grows from simple to complex as the child grows themselves.

Children can experience active physical play using playground equipment. Playgrounds provide an opportunity for free play. Children can play anyway they choose made possible by the space and structures in place. So, according to each child’s natural tendency, it allows them to freely learn from each other and interact with different age groups

Several researches on brain development show it is beneficial in the earlier years of a child. The act of play stimulates these functions and the brain exhibits its capabilities through the build-up and organization from play. The more a child plays (using sensory impressions and motor activities), the more the brain interprets that path and gradually distinguishes the rough patterns to a smoother constructed image. The playground help facilitate this stage of development through the child’s sensory impression and their cognitive development becomes expanded.

A child's ability to use their muscles while growing up, specifically their hands and fingers, to pick up  objects, hold and turn pages in a book, use color pencils to draw, foster good motor-skills throughout the stages of growth. Most children with poorly developed motor-skills between the ages of 0-5 are likely to be deficient. Playgrounds prove to excellent environments for these skills to flourish where it challenges the children to perfect their motor skills on more hard-to-control equipment. They learn to improve on tactical manipulation and coordination of their bodies and the objects they play with. Although this might pose a bit of danger (injury), it greatly augments physical activity in children.

Play primarily drives the imaginative, intellectual and language capacities of a child. Interaction with their peers allows them to express their ideas and feelings and develop oral skills. A playground offers a social environment where these children come together to congregate and communicate and experiment with various emotions and also learn by physical and mental trial-and-error to recognize what is relevant and what is not.

In conclusion, repetitive play actions play a vital role in successful growth of a child. It promotes brain development, physical successes, social, intellectual and oral skills by allowing the child to interact with their peers and environment. Playgrounds are simple environments that facilitate play, more importantly they are safe havens designed to foster and enhance the collective interaction of the children, their parents and caretakers. Any space that would make free play possible for a child can be considered as playgrounds. They are fun for children, and fun generally has a lasting effect on children’s development.

By building playgrounds, we can create a space where parents and bring their children to play and assist in their development process.


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Baby Mind: Brain-Building Games Your Baby Will Love
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Beyond Baby Talk: From Sounds to Sentences, A Parent's Complete Guide to Language Development
Apel, K., & Masterson, J.

The Emotional Life of the Toddler
Lieberman, A.F. 

Your Child at Play One to Two Years: Exploring, Daily Living, Learning and Making Friends
Segal, M. & Masi, W.


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