Playground Benefits

by FS&TS

By Kristina LaBarre, MOT, OTR/L

Playgrounds are filled with wonderful equipment designed to help bolster your child’s gross motor, sensory motor, and social skills. The best part is that kids are busy having fun while they are developing their skills in age appropriate ways!  
These are just some of the MANY playground benefits from an occupational therapist’s perspective: 

Proprioceptive processing

This sensory system takes information from the muscles and joints that sends it to our brain to communicate about where our body is in space.  This input is required for coordination, body awareness, rate/timing of movements, and force modulation (the amount of force required for activities). 

  • Activities such as hanging, climbing, jumping, crashing, pushing, pulling help develop this sense

Vestibular processing

This sensation allows us to maintain balance, arousal regulation, spatial orientation, ocular motor skills, postural control, weight shifting, motor coordination, attention, and speech development.  This can be achieved through changes in head position. 

  • Equipment and activities that develop this sense include monkey bars, slides, zip lines, swings, merry-go-rounds, log rolling, somersaults

Tactile processing

This sensory system gives us information about our environment, determine pain, the amount of pressure required for activities, body scheme, and assist with developing fine motor coordination required for writing and completing fasteners.  

  • Equipment and activity that develop this sense include: sand boxes, grass, rocks, climbing on different surfaces

Auditory processing

This can be addressed via filtering out and tuning into certain sounds during play.  Children with difficulties in this area may rely on other senses especially touch and sight during play.

  • Nature sounds can also provide a calming effect.  

Visual system

This system helps us make sense of what we see, assist with spatial relations, and directionality.  

Playgrounds provide opportunities to strengthen the whole body and endurance. 

  • Activities that develop this sense include: climbing, hanging, swinging

Social skills, safety awareness, and attention are also developed naturally at the playground.