Make Playground Time Educational

Make Playground Time Educational

A trip to the playground is always fun and exciting but it can be very educational.  My daughter rarely heads to the playground wanting to just experience the climbing and sliding opportunities.  If she is with a group of her friends playground time immediately becomes some type of game involving lava, pirates, or sharks.  Playgrounds are one of the best places to watch your child's imagination work.  Rock walls must be mastered or the lion at the bottom will eat you.  Bridges must be crossed quickly but cautiously to avoid a crocodile bite.  Slides are the quickest way to avoid the evil monster at your heels.  I encourage you to set up play dates at the playground so you can watch your children's creativity expand.

For times when friends or siblings are not around your preschool child can still stretch their imagination and get a great education by playing with you.  When it is just you and your child take advantage of the chance to teach your child new concepts or expand and demonstrate concepts they are already learning. 

Use the slide to teach things such as gravity, slopes/angles/incline planes, and speed.  Uses stairs and climbing walls to practice counting or to show how their leg muscles work as they climb.  Show them the nuts and bolts and explain how they hold the playground together.  Talk about engineering, architecture and design by asking questions that encourage your child to think. "How sturdy are the walkways compared to the bridge?"  "Is it easier to climb the stairs, rock wall, or slide and why?"  There are so many things that can be taught.  Take whatever concept you have been working on lately and I bet you will be able to come up with a fun way to teach it on the playground.

Teaching your child at the playground is all about fun.  If you just try looking at the slide and talking about incline planes your child will not be very happy.  Make everything a game.  Every time my husband takes my daughter to the playground he creates fun, educational stories that they can act out. 

An example of one of his many stories.-

"One day Gilou (my daughter always makes up the names) decided to go hiking in the mountains."  They climb up the stairs together and make comments about the scenery "Wow, that is a gigantic rock!"  "That river is moving very quickly."  At some point in the journey Gilou slips and falls into the river (goes down the slide).  She has to swim over to the rock wall and try to pull herself out of the fast moving current.  "Gilou made it out of the river but now she is cold, wet, and lost.  Gilou is in big trouble because she did not tell anyone where she was going to be hiking."  At this point they search through Gilou's hiking pack and luckily find a change of clothes.  They take inventory of the other items she has packed such as a flashlight, compass, and snacks.  "Gilou knows that usually the best thing to do when you get lost is to stay put until someone can find you but no one knows she is out here and she remembers crossing a road as she hiked up the mountain.  She decides that she will follow the river down the mountain while checking her compass to stay on the course she thinks will take her to the road."  Eventually Gilou finds her way to the road and is able to follow it to help. 

During this story my husband and daughter have been up and down every obstacle on the playground numerous times.  He tells the story but always includes her on decision making such as "Does it look safe to cross this decaying bridge or does Gilou need to climb down the canyon and back up the other side".  She has learned a lot about basic survival and safety skills, such as always telling someone where you are going and what items you should pack when hiking.  Her vocabulary is being stretched as she learns words such as current and decay.  Her own imagination and ideas may lead the story down a different path then my husband had in mind. Example, he says Gilou sees someone in the distance and is going to be saved but my daughter decides it's a bear.  My husband then has to explain how to scare a bear away before they can continue on to be rescued.  Through all of this story based learning they have both got in a nice workout and had fun while bonding.

Next time you take your kid to the playground try getting involved.  Create imaginary stories together, climb and slide together, learn and laugh together because that is the joy of being a parent!

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