What would the ideal playground look like?
Experts say there is no one model. A good, creative playground can be a large regional facility or a small neighborhood ''tot lot.'' It can be made of metal or wood, or be built on top of wood chips or artificial turf.
The bottom line is this: It needs to challenge children in an age-appropriate way.
That means the best playground for a toddler isn't going to be right for a 5-year-old and vice versa. Even safety guidelines suggest children age 2-5 and age 5-12 should be playing on separate equipment.
Here's what a playground should encourage by various age levels.
Developmental play: Gaining control over body, sitting, crawling, walking, grasping
Cognitive play: Loose parts, blocks, sand
Sensory experiences: Chimes/bells, different textures, sensory gardens
Developmental play: Climbing, crawling, rocking, sliding, swinging, balancing, bouncing
Creative play: Lots of opportunities for imaginative, ''make-believe'' play
Cognitive play: Sand, water, building blocks
Developmental play: School-age children have more developed motor skills that allow them to do more jumping, gliding and hanging, and can safely play at higher deck levels.
Creative play: As children develop, they continue to engage in creative play, but they do tend to move to more structured and realistic play (hence, more involvement in sports and games).
Cognitive play: The same as the younger children.
Source: KaBoom!, a nonprofit organization that encourages playground development
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