Most people will look at a children’s playground and assume it is somewhere for youngsters to let off a bit of steam. And why not? It’s the perfect place for them to expend excess energy, engage with friends and generally enjoy themselves.

But at a deeper level, playgrounds are a lot more complex. They offer children the opportunity to develop their imaginations and – just as important – it is an area where they can develop vital life skills, such as problem solving and leadership.

Playgrounds – it’s all about problem solving

Play, as most experts agree, is a vital part of the life experience that helps our children grown into well-rounded adults. The playground is the space where these skills are challenged and honed.

On a simple level it could be about overcoming fear. A child faced with coming down a high slide for the first time is naturally apprehensive and will work out the best way of using the equipment to avoid the potential for injury until they become more confident.

Children will also work together to discover the best ways to conquer climbing frames and other pieces of play equipment that need teamwork to get the best experience. A simple see-saw is an obvious example of where two are always needed.

Modern teachers are learning how to combine the playground experience by bringing questions into the classroom – asking pupils, for example, how they worked together to overcome problems and how they felt when they succeeded.

Asking playgrounds questions

The playground offers endless opportunities for open-ended questions that help children think through problems. How many ways are there to get to the top of the climbing frame? Can you think of a new way to get up there? What’s a fast way to get through the obstacle course? How many hops can 4-year-olds do?

These questions will help stretch a child because no one actually knows the answers to them. They are therefore more likely to use their imaginations and further suggest ways to problem-solve.

Solving problems is an enormously satisfying experience for children. Creating psychological openings, observing and following through on children’s interests, and posing open-ended questions are important strategies for encouraging children to engage in the education process.

Education experts agree that this process works in a better way than directly challenging a child to solve a problem. For example, by making a suggestion such as, “See if you can make your shadow taller.”

Few children or adults like to constantly be challenged by another person. These direct challenges can become tiresome which is why play opens up so many opportunities.

So next time you see children in a playground, just remember it’s not only about letting off excess energy. It could be the place where future leaders are emerging.

Speak to the playground experts

Playcubed have been creating outstanding play spaces in schools for over 40 years. If you are looking to create a playground that challenges your students skills and pushes them into problem solving scenarios, contact us for more information.