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Poured in Place surfacing midstates recreation

What is Poured in Place Surfacing?

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As you create plans for your new playground, one of the most important decisions you need to make is choosing a safety surface. No matter the design, theme, or feel of your playground – there is a surfacing option for your project. You should have two goals in mind when designing a playground: to let kids have fun and to keep them as safe as possible.

Poured in Place Surfacing, also known as PIP, is one of the best attenuating surfaces for accessibility and longevity. It features two layers, with the bottom layer being clean, recycled rubber and the top layer being bonded rubber granules that provide a ½” thick wear layer. The top layer is available in a wide range of colors that can be mixed, matched, and designed into graphic elements, shapes, and themes.

Activities Become Accessible 

At Midstates Recreation, we strive to provide inclusive environments. Poured in Place Surfacing will make the playground more accessible to those that use mobility devices. Loose fill surfacing materials such as wood fiber, pea gravel, and sand make a playground nearly impossible to access for children with mobility devices. If accessibility is a concern but you are constrained by budget, consider adding accessible PIP pathways throughout your loose fill areas.

Long Term Budget-Friendly & Reliable

Budget is always a concern when we work on a playground project. While the initial cost may be higher, poured in place surfacing is low maintenance, so money is saved over time by picking this reliable unitary rubber option. With the ability to keep this surface clean, and the average longevity of the product, you will find its benefits outweigh the cost. You can be sure that this surface will last throughout the wear and tear of typical playground use. After all, when thinking about safety concerns, reliability is a must.

Poured in Place Surfacing Projects

This surfacing option must be installed over asphalt, concrete, or compacted stone by a trained professional. While choosing your playground surfacing, remember, you don’t have to choose just one. A few benefits of combining surfacing materials in a single play environment include:

  1. Separates play areas
  2. Adds visual appeal to your playground environment
  3. Provides different sensory experiences

As you create plans for your new playground, one of the important decisions you need to make is the choice of surface. No matter the design, theme, or feel of your playground – there is a surfacing option that is perfect for your project.

Download our Free Safety Surfacing Comparison Guide and contact us today at 800-367-4440 to get started!

Midstates Recreation designs, supplies, and builds community-enhancing recreational play and site structures. Midstates Recreation offers a variety of playground equipment in communities located in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Our emphasis is not only to create play and recreation spaces for all, but to also provide a truly valuable and inclusive addition to your community! Contact your local sales representative to learn more.

midstates recreation playground

Why Downtime is Important for Children

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Everyone needs time to relax and decompress, kids included. Kids have to be “on” and focused while at school and at extracurricular activities. Being able to wind down after these obligations is imperative. Read on to learn about the importance of downtime for your children below.

Ask Yourself, “Is My Child Overscheduled?” 

Adults aren’t the only ones that can have a hectic schedule. We want our children to be involved in extracurricular activities, but are they busy from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed? Constant sports practices and games, studying for school, completing homework, and running family errands can add up to be a packed schedule with no room for relaxation.

If your child is overscheduled, they may be experiencing poor sleep habits and/or poor school performance.

The Importance of Downtime for Your Child

What is downtime? Downtime is simply a period of the day when your child has the opportunity to relax, decompress, and recharge. They don’t have to be anywhere or doing anything specific.

Providing your child with downtime can help eliminate stress, improve their sleep, and improve their school performance. Our brains need time to relax and take a pause from the craziness of our daily lives. Relaxing allows children to do things they want to do, rather than things they have to do.

It is very important to provide your children with unstructured play. Unstructured play does not involve any guidelines for what the child should do. This provides more opportunities for them to use their imagination and creativity to play, ultimately improving their problem-solving and decision-making skills.

The CDC recommends 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day.

How Can I Create Downtime for Kids?

Create a Doable Schedule

There is a multitude of reasons why extracurricular activities benefit children. As you create their schedule, be mindful to not overschedule.

  1. Avoid having obligations every day. You can take the mindset of having a one-to-one ratio of downtime and activities throughout the school year.
  2. Discuss and identify what activities your child is truly passionate about and commit to only a couple at a time.

Let Them Play

Play is natural for a child. Don’t force them to play, socialize, or be creative. Rather, let them play when they want and let them relax when it seems like they need a break. Teach children the importance of getting back to being productive after relaxing. For example, your child may need a bit of downtime after school but will need to complete their homework afterward.

Get Outside

Most importantly – spend time outside. Spending downtime outside checks so many boxes we are attempting to accomplish.

  1. Relaxation time
  2. Play
  3. Exercise
  4. Stress Relief

So let your kids play in the yard, take a walk as a family, ride bikes together, or visit your local park or playground!

Midstates Recreation designs, supplies, and builds community-enhancing recreational play and site structures. Midstates Recreation offers a variety of playground equipment in communities located in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Our emphasis is not only to create play and recreation spaces for all but to also provide a truly valuable and inclusive addition to your community! Contact your local sales representative to learn more.

group design collab

4 Factors for Consideration When Planning Your Park

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4 Factors for Consideration When Planning Your Park

  1. What Does Your Park Look Like?

Designing a park includes many various components. When choosing the integral parts of your park, you will need to consider your visual goals, children’s varying abilities, the comfort of supervisors, and the area you are trying to fill. Regardless of the size of your area, your design and choices will impact the users of the park. With so many choices, it is important to design your park based on your goals and the needs of those using it.

2. What Are Your Park Goals?

Designing a park can be overwhelming. The first step to creating the perfect recreational play area is deciding what your top goals are. Some factors you need to consider are as follows: What is the desired level of inclusivity? Will your play space be a traditional post and platform structure

, unstructured freestanding play, nature play, rope play, or a combination of these elements? Is it going to be an area where its users can improve their upper body strength, endurance, or balance? Would you like to include sensory play such as outdoor musical equipment? Is multigenerational play a concern? Will adults will join in on the play activities or is the space designed more for their comfort when observing? These are some of the necessary goals to consider before designing your park.

3. Who Are The Users of Your Park?

Many times ensuring that children of all abilities are able to access and play will be crucial. Inclusion matters and there are many inclusive play options available when designing your park.

It is also important to consider equipment that will encourage multigenerational play. Play areas should be designed so that it meets the physical and developmental needs of ages 2-5, 5-12, or 2-12. You can also include aspects where adults or supervisors are able to interact as well as options for shady, comfortable areas with benches.

4. What Are Your Visual Goals?

This is the fun part! How will your park reach users visually? Will your park be functional, elegant, eco-friendly, or all of the above? Will your safety surfacing contribute to the visual aesthetic? Some options to consider are benches, planters, umbrellas, tables, shade structures, and so much m

ore. Shade shelters can keep users cool on a hot, sunny day. They will also protect you from harmful UV rays. You will decide whether you prefer bright colorful equipment or a more natural array of equipment thatblends in with natural backdrops. The visual distinction will set your park apart from the rest!

Midstates Recreation designs, supplies, and buildscommunity-enhancing recreational play and site structures. Midstates Recreation offers a variety of playground equipment in communities located in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Our emphasis is not only to create play and recreation spaces for all but to also provide a truly valuable and inclusive addition to your community! Contact your local sales representative to learn more.

inclusive playground equipment for a girl with disabilities

How to Create An Inclusive School Environment

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How to Create An Inclusive School Environment

An inclusive school makes all students feel safe, respected, and valued. All students should feel they are included in all aspects of the school day – in the classroom, in the lunch line, outside at recess on the playground, etc – regardless of individual differences.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act require equal education opportunities for students who have disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) highlights the importance of inclusion for all children. According to IDEA, schools must include students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities must:

  1. Be placed alongside students who are typically developing
  2. Have access to the standard curriculum
  3. Have access to typical non-academic activities

A team of the student’s parents, teachers, support staff, and administrators should work together to create the best possible plan for the individual student based on their unique needs. Full inclusion is the most ideal scenario. So rather than removing students from their mainstream classroom, schools should insert support staff into the classroom as much as possible. This same thought process can be applied to recess areas – don’t create separate play areas for developmentally different students, rather, include opportunities for all abilities to play and engage in the same playground spaces.

How to Create A More Inclusive School Environment

  •  Use Diverse Education Resources

When choosing education resources such as posters, academic texts, and library books, seek resources that include diverse representation. Many children’s books now address topics of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and other differences. Books are a phenomenal way to spark discussion and will normalize differences among students.

  • Create Collaborative Projects

Students learn so much from working with their peers. When creating lesson plans, identify which aspects of the lesson can be done in pairs or groups. Collaborating and working together as a group allows diversity to be celebrated and all contributions to be valued. Consider implementing student roles within groups and supply your class with sentence starters that will encourage productive discussion.

Here is a great resource that can help with student roles and sentence starters shared by the Illinois State Board of Education:

  • Create Accessible Playgrounds

Inclusion must go beyond the classroom and extend onto the playground. We know the importance play has on a child’s social, emotional, and physical development. All students, no matter their abilities, deserve opportunities to develop on the playground.

In order to be considered accessible and inclusive for everyone, a playground should try to meet as many of the following criteria as possible:

  1. Activities are sensory-rich and engage the auditory, tactile (touch), proprioceptive (muscle and joint movements), vision, and vestibular (balance and spatial orientation) sensory systems
  2. Unitary surfacing provides users of mobility devices with an easily accessible play space
  3. Varying challenge levels are present to ensure all ages and abilities are actively engaged on the playground
  4. The “Coolest Thing” – the piece of equipment children will be most excited about –is accessible and usable for all
  5. Stimulating play elements encourage imaginative, cooperative, and parallel play
  6. Routes around and through the playground are wide enough for those using mobility devices to easily pass each other, transfer onto equipment, and get close to activities

It may not be possible for the entire playground or all of the equipment to meet these standards, but taking steps to make even part of the area accessible and inclusive is a step in the right direction.

Creating an inclusive environment benefits everyone. We must celebrate diversity among students in order to ensure the same opportunities for all. Schools should promote inclusion both in and out of the classroom – including offering inclusive playground equipment at recess.

For more info on Inclusive Play, why it is important, and how it can be achieved, click to read our FREE Inclusive Play Idea Book.

If you would like to learn more about designing and building a playground at your school  that is accessible and inclusive, visit midstatesrecreation.com

Midstates Recreation designs, supplies, and builds community-enhancing recreational play and site structures. Midstates Recreation offers a variety of playground equipment in communities located in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Our emphasis is not only to create play and recreation spaces for all but to also provide a truly valuable and inclusive addition to your community! Contact your local sales representative to learn more.

How to Build An Inclusive Playground for Children With Visual Impairments

How to Build An Inclusive Playground for Children With Visual Impairments

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While on the playground, children with visual impairments need the opportunity to explore, take risks freely, and develop socially, emotionally, and physically – just like all children do. However, the way they play and take in the world around them is different. When designing your new playground, take into consideration elements you can incorporate that will create an inclusive space for children with visual impairments.

Children with visual impairments utilize their other senses when playing and exploring. For example, a child may run their hands along a surface to learn the object’s shape or listen to the surrounding sounds to understand where they are on the playground.

Here are a few ways to design an inclusive playground for children with visual impairments:

  • Textures

    – Include surfaces with varying textures that children with visual impairments can feel. Consider adding in panels with Braille writing. Be mindful of adding these features at ground level, as not all children will want to/ are able to climb.

 

  • Sound Features

    – Sounds are a great way for children with visual impairments to learn about their surrounding environment but can also be a fun activity. Midstates Recreation has many outdoor musical instruments to help create a great sensory play experience. Check out a few examples here!

 

  • Sensory Tables 

    – Create a multi-sensory experience for children of all abilities by adding a sensory table to your playground. This table can be an area for play with sand or water, for example. A sensory table provides a great, low-pressure choice where children can play and explore.

 

  • Brightly Colored Equipment

    – Choosing colorful playground equipment and structures can help children with visual impairments see things more easily.

 

  • Safety Considerations

    – Boundaries should include features that are easily recognizable. Some choices to consider include fences, guidewires, and railings. Combining bright patterns and noticeable textures on these boundaries and other areas where safety could be of concern can be of great help in keeping all children safe.

 

Adding specific accommodations into your playground design plans can help all children enjoy the playground to its fullest extent. Creating an accessible, inclusive playground with considerations for children with visual impairments encourages these children to create connections with their peers.

Now that you have some ideas of how to create an inclusive playground for children with visual impairments let us help you bring your ideas to life. Midstates Recreation designs, supplies, and builds community-enhancing recreational play and site structures. Midstates Recreation offers a variety of playground equipment in communities located in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Our emphasis is not only to create play and recreation spaces for all but to also provide a truly valuable and inclusive addition to your community! Contact your local sales representative to learn more.

Playground funding opportunities

How To Ask For Playground Funding

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Soliciting funding for new playground equipment may sound intimidating. We’re here to help. Fundraising requires you to be actively diligent and creative, but will be a fun and rewarding adventure! Read on as we provide ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Personal Outreach for Donations:

When discussing the playground funding with potential donors, be personal and sincere with them. Don’t use fancy terms and long-winded requests. Being clear in your goals will help people trust you and show that you have nothing to hide. Share where their money will be going and express the objectives of your fundraising in a concise way. Follow these additional guidelines as well:

Children playing on midstates recreation inclusive playground equipment

  • Make every potential funder feel unique and special.
  • Understand how they want to make a difference in their community.
  • Ask for a specific amount for a specific purpose that reflects the donor’s intentions.
  • When wording your donation request, never use “I.” Always use a bigger group as the recipient, such as “students,” “children,” “community,” etc.
  • Follow up with potential donors and remind them of the importance of the playground funding.
  • Give recognition to the people who have contributed. Keep donors engaged by saying thank you and updating them on the progress of the fundraiser.
  • Think of ways to personalize your gratitude for donors, like having the students create thank you cards for them!
  • Consider making your own donation before asking anyone else for a donation.

Special Events: 

Another way to solicit funding for new playground equipment is to host a special event. Holding special events provides an opportunity to interact with community members and build relationships that can lead to donations! Below are a few special event ideas:

  • inclusive commercial playground equipment Bake Sale
  • Talent Show
  • Concert
  • Carnival or Fun Fair
  • Fun Run
  • Auction

Apply for Grants: 

A grant is an amount of money given by the government, foundations, or corporations to groups that go through an application process. Check out these tips for writing grants for playground equipment:

  • Head over to Instrumentl.com, sign up for the free trial, and search for organizations that focus on grants for school playgrounds, grants for church playgrounds, grants for community playgrounds. You can also search for organizations that provide funding for projects that promote education, physical activity, health and wellness, inclusivity, and community development.
  • Another great grant resource is Grant Professionals Association. When utilizing GPA, you have the option to work directly with a grant writer/consultant. Find someone who meets your organization’s needs by including criteria like Category and Location in your search.
  • Tailor your application to the organization you are applying to for funding. Be sure that you are not sending the same standard responses to every organization. Of course, all your applications will have the same project strengths, goals, and timeline for completion, but add points that connect your mission to the mission of the organization.

Financing Options For Playground Funding:

Still have a balance to raise? The Midstates Recreation Finance Program, powered by Navitas Credit Corp., can help you get the playground equipment you need while preserving your cash flow. We give you the ability to acquire our playground equipment through affordable monthly payment plans that can be customized to meet almost any budget.

When you can work hand in hand with friends, families, and your community, building this playground will become manageable and enjoyable!

Commercial Playground Equipment

What’s the Difference Between Commercial and Residential Playground Equipment?

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When you are planning to install a new playground at a park, school, church, or any other public location, you may be surprised at the price difference between playground equipment for the commercial market versus a residential play structure for a home.  After all, isn’t it all just slides and swings?

While some of the equipment may look similar, there are significant reasons for the cost difference.  Keep reading to learn how investing in the commercial variety can benefit your play space and why there is value in the higher cost.

Commercial Playground Equipment Is Made for More

When you install a swing-set in a backyard, it is usually just the family and friends that play on it.  There are usually only a handful of kids swinging, sliding or climbing. The equipment is made to be strong enough to accommodate those children safely.  It is also assumed that they are playing on it a couple hours a day.

Playground equipment that is made for a commercial space – like your park, school or church- is made with even stronger and tougher materials that are meant to accommodate a large number of children at one time and over longer periods of time.

Commercial equipment is designed to handle more aggressive play and more touches per day.

Play spaces are usually larger in a public setting, and the equipment is also made on a larger scale.  For example, you usually don’t see the high swings that you see on a playground in someone’s backyard!

Playground Equipment Made Stronger for Longer

At-home playground equipment is designed to be used by the children of one household.  They assume that the children will play on it for a number of years and then outgrow it.  The materials used are meant to last with this one generation in mind.

Commercial equipment assumes that there will always be a new group of children to replace the ones that outgrow it.  This type of equipment doesn’t get to “retire”.  Therefore, it is built with stronger materials that are meant to handle this constant stream of children over a longer period of years.  The hope is that many generations of children will get to play and enjoy this space and the materials used are meant to last longer.

Both residential and commercial play spaces are subject to the elements of weather.  They are both designed to withstand tough conditions- from icy cold snowstorms to sweltering heat and sun.  However, due to the idea that a residential playground will only have to hold up through one generation, the materials used are usually only made for that number of years of extreme weather.  Commercial equipment is made with materials that can withstand the elements for many more years.

Playground Equipment Manufactured Tough Commercial Playground Equipment vs Residential playground equipment

Here is a list of some of the different types of building materials that are used in commercial vs. residential playground equipment:

COMMERCIAL PLAY EQUIPMENT:

  1. Heavy-duty thick walled metal posts and poles
  2. Thick molded plastic
  3. Steel-reinforce nylon rope
  4. Large gauge swing chains

RESIDENTIAL PLAY EQUIPMENT:Local playground equipment

  1. Thin-walled metal posts and poles
  2. Thin molded plastic
  3. Nylon rope
  4. Smaller gauge swing chains

Costs are obviously going to be higher for commercial play equipment due to the need for more expensive parts that are used in building the play structures.

More Playground Equipment Options = More Fun

Residential playground options are usually available for sale at big-box stores or online.  They are typically pre-packaged with no options for additions or replacements.  When planning a public play space, you get to design and choose any type of structure that you can dream of (within your budget, of course!).

Commercial playground equipment is available in a wide variety of colors and themes and can be formed in any configuration that you desire.  There are pieces that can be added or replaced.  A playground can blend in with the natural surroundings or made to stand out bright like a carnival or even a pirate ship!

For inspiration, check out the Midstates Recreation gallery of projects! https://www.midstatesrecreation.com/project-gallery/all-projects/

You get to be more creative when designing a commercial play space.  There are few limitations when it comes to the choices. Some of the most exciting trends are outdoor musical instruments and technology-driven interactive equipment.

Safety Matters

Residential and commercial playground equipment differ in that commercial equipment must adhere to specific guidelines set forth by ASTM and CPSC as designated for commercial use.

Due to the increased safety measures, the materials used are more expensive. There is more testing done to make sure the equipment will not cause harm. Surfacing requirements are also held to a higher standard which can also increase the overall cost of a project. Residential equipment is commonly seen with little to no safety surfacing whereas commercial playground equipment is required by ASTM and CPSC guidelines to have safety surfacing.

Inclusivity = Fun For All

Lastly, a commercial play space should be designed to include more than one family’s needs.  It should be planned with everyone of every ability in mind.  Commercial play equipment has made great strides in planning and designing equipment that can accommodate people of all different sizes and ages.

Not only can it be created for children and people with physical disabilities and medical equipment, but also for more than one person- like a caretaker or a parent to help.  Imagine a place where an elderly grandparent can play alongside a young grandchild or kids of all ages and sizes can go down the same slide.

To learn more about inclusivity on the playground, visit https://www.midstatesrecreation.com/inclusive-play/

The bottom line is that commercial playground equipment IS more expensive than its residential counterpart.  However, there are a lot of differences in the type of equipment available and the quality of the materials that make it more valuable and worth the investment.

Why is Accessible Play Important?

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Play is a vital part of a child’s development.  It is the foundation upon which they learn social skills, creative thinking, problem solving and self-regulation.  Going to a playground also promotes physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. A playground is the “classroom” where kids can benefit from all of the advantages of free play.

Children playing on Midstates playground equipment in memorial park ohio

Nearly 1 in 5 people in the USA has a disability.  That means there are millions of children with a physical or mental disability. Play should not be reserved only for those children with no disabilities. All children should be able to participate.  There is a nationwide movement to make public places more inclusive. A movement to make sure that there is kindness in our communities and that everyone is included. This is why creating an accessible playground is so important.

What is “Accessible” and “Inclusive” Play?

Often, the words “accessible” and “inclusive” are used together. They are symbiotic words that work together in a playground setting but actually mean two different things.

When applied to play and playgrounds, “accessible” simply means that anyone can access the equipment.  You might be thinking of wheelchair ramps, and while those are useful, let’s think beyond that. Other important factors include the surfacing, the size and space of the area and the equipment itself. Fortunately, playground equipment manufactures are getting more creative every year with design and function.

An “inclusive” playground means that the equipment is designed to be used by people of all abilities, ages and sizes.  It means being a part of something. It means fostering an environment where diversity is respected and valued. In order to achieve an inclusive play area, it must first be accessible.

Keys to Accessible and Inclusive Play

In order to be considered accessible and inclusive for everyone, a playground should try to meet as many of the following criteria as possible:

  1. Equitable Use – each piece of equipment can be used by anyone regardless of disability, size, age
  2. Flexibility – each piece can be use in multiple ways
  3. Ease of Use – equipment should be easy to use with little or no direction
  4. Information – any info or directions that are needed for equipment should be easily displayed or available
  5. OK to Use Wrong – encourage creativity!  The equipment should be ok if used in a different way than intended.
  6. Low Physical Effort – equipment should be able to use by people of all strength levels
  7. Size and Space.- there should be enough room for anyone that uses special equipment (wheelchair, walker, etc.).  The space should also consider that a caretaker may need to be with the child.

It may not be possible for the entire playground or all of the equipment to meet these standards, but taking steps to make even part of the area accessible and inclusive is a step in the right direction.

Why Should We Make Playgrounds Accessible?

Special Needs & Inclusive playground Equipment at Neil Armstrong ElementaryEveryone deserves a chance to join in and play. Playing is when kids learn how to socialize, how to make friends, how to be fair, kind and empathetic.

Accessible and inclusive playgrounds may be designed with the child with the disability in mind, but the benefits overflow to the child with no disabilities.  These kids will learn about differences, kindness, empathy and a world with no barriers.

Inclusive playgrounds tend to be more creative and unique.  This makes it a destination for the whole community.  Even if the playground is private at a school or church, kids will get excited when they know they are headed there.

The physical benefits of play are great for all, especially children with disabilities that may not have as many opportunities for physical activity.  Many Americans live a sedentary or inactive life and childhood obesity is prevalent. Getting outside and moving can help!

Long-term studies* show that children that are exposed to play early in life have significantly better life outcomes.  Higher career earnings, an increase in the number of high school and college graduates and increased confidence in their social and coping skills.

Let’s not deny ANYONE these opportunities!  Provide accessible and inclusive play for all!

For more info on Inclusive Play, why it is important and how it can be achieved, click to read our FREE Inclusive Play Idea Book.

https://www.midstatesrecreation.com/inclusive-play/

If you would like to learn more about designing and building a playground in your community, school or church, that is accessible and inclusive, visit https://www.midstatesrecreation.com/

Girl hanging upside down on a rope

How Can Play Help The Mental Health Of Children?

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According to mentalhealth.org , 1 in 10 children suffer from some sort of mental health issue.  This is a surprisingly large number of children!

Although there is no direct proof that the current technology-driven era is contributing to this large number, it’s no secret that children seem to be spending a lot more time in front of screens than in the past.

As parents, teachers and care-takers, it is our responsibility to raise children in a way that gives them the best possible chance to live without mental health issues. Making sure that they have plenty of opportunity to play can help.

Why is Play So Important?

It isn’t difficult to recognize the physical needs of children.  Provide them with food, shelter, exercise, healthcare, and a safe space to live and sleep.

However, figuring out what children need to develop strong mental health is not as obvious.  You might be surprised to find out that “Play” is an important key.

Play is how children learn who they are, test their strengths and boundaries, and figure out how the world works.

According to research done on brain development, play actually shapes the structural design of the brain.  Play creates a brain that has increased “flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life.”

Ways to Help Children Develop Strong Mental Health

Some of the things a child needs to form a strong foundation for their current and future mental health are:

  1. Unconditional love from their family
  2. Safe and secure environment and surroundings
  3. Teachers and caregivers that encourage them
  4. Appropriate guidance and discipline
  5. Positive conversations that build up self-confidence and self-esteem
  6. Play with other children- structured and unstructured

Play is a natural thing to do for children.  The job of the adult is to make sure the child has plenty of opportunity to do so.

What is Structured Play?

Just as it sounds, Structured Play is time to play that includes rules or boundaries.  This is usually any type of intentional game or activity.  Typically, there is a goal to reach (ex: build something with Legos or win a game of Tag).

Structured play can foster:

  1. Leadership tendencies
  2. Team building and teamwork
  3. Improved listening skills
  4. Problem-solving skills
  5. Goal-setting and meeting a goal

What is Unstructured Play?

Also known as “Free Play”, Unstructured Play is when the child leads the activity and there are no set rules or structured games.  The goal is to truly let the child decide what to do with the time and how they spend it.

Structured Play/Free Play can foster:

  1. Positive feelings like joy, thrill, competency
  2. Imagination and creativity
  3. Resilience- they learn how to handle different situations, how to cope with various outcomes, and how to continue playing when there is uncertainty or challenges
  4. Attention span- can increase how long a child can pay attention to tasks.  This is especially helpful with children who have a hard time maintaining focus for a long period of time.
  5. Social interaction- allows them to develop proper social cues and learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships.  They learn to compromise and cooperate with other children.
  6. Fewer undesirable behaviors like bullying.  Free play teaches children how to control aggression and regulate feelings of anger and frustration.

How to Provide Unstructured Play for Children

This is the easiest part.  Simply give the child a safe environment and let them play!  Try not to interfere unless their safety is at risk.  A room with toys works well but a great place to take them is a playground.

Playgrounds provide the perfect environment to allow children the freedom to play with no boundaries and to use their own imagination and free will to choose what they will do.  They can use the actual playground structure to inspire their own games and imaginative play.

To view playground projects that will inspire the creative side of your child’s mind, click here to visit our Gallery.

Commit to a Strong Mental Health Foundation for Your Child

There are several ways that you can guide your child to lifelong good mental health.  Teaching your child about feelings and emotions and being aware of their actions and behaviors.

Show them that it’s okay to struggle as long as they learn how to work through those problems.

Teach them about relationships by being someone that they can trust.  Allow them to learn how to problem-solve on their own (with your guidance).

And lastly, you can encourage their creativity and other life-skills by playing with them and also allowing time for Free Play. Doing these things can’t guarantee that your child will live a life without any mental health problems, but it can guarantee that you have done everything to help guide them in a positive direction.