Rewire Their Brains on the Playground

 

Traditional Playgrounds or Creative Playgrounds? Perhaps an Adventure Playground?

Even when I was in college, I still loved the swings. I used to go down to the playground at Cascade Park and swing. It just felt good and made me happy.

Little did I understand that swinging was just what my brain needed. By stimulating the brain's vestibular system which regulates balance, I got a sense of where I was in space.

The fancy word for that is proprioception, and I had lousy proprioception--always bumping into things, tripping, falling down a lot. So I knew instinctively that swinging was just what my brain-body connection needed.

Swings are an important part of every traditional playground. Money bars are too. The brain loves monkey bars and rings because they require crossing the center mid-line which is essential for reading, writing, math and tons of other skills.

You can even hang upside down on monkey bars--another good thing for the vestibular system.  They help with

sensory integration and focus. Not to mention developing strong muscles.

So let's jump forward from the 60s to the current movement for imagination playgrounds with lots of movable parts so kids can build things and adventure playgrounds for exploring.

Building things is good. Helping kids develop creativity is crucial. Certainly nothing wrong with exploring. And these new playgrounds do look like loads of fun.

My beef is with the theory that these are "good" playgrounds and the playgrounds of my childhood which helped with sensory integration are "bad." One proponent of the new playgrounds calls the old playgrounds "lame" and suggests we need a movement to get rid of them because they stifle children.

No, no, a thousand times no! Why can't we have both elements in one playground so kids like me can develop better balance and improve sensory integration? And another kid can build something or explore. Who knows? Maybe we'll take turns. I'll swing today. Tomorrow I'll build.

Creativity is only one piece of healthy brain development. With the number of kids with ADHD, ADHD-like behavior and sensory integration challenges, we need swings and monkey bars too.

Let me know what you think: Given the choice, will you take your kids to imagination playgrounds or playgrounds with swings and monkey bars?

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About Dr. MaryJo Wagner

MaryJo Wagner, PhD, helps you help your kids transform ADHD behavior for success. Sign up at Coaching & Accountability to get your questions answered with a complimentary Transformation Session.

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