The growing rate of obesity among children indicates that it is more important than ever to encourage them to play actively. In 2010 First Lady Michelle Obama initiated a campaign called “Let’s Move” that works with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to support the construction of more playgrounds around the U.S. Schools, neighbourhoods, non-profit groups, local governments and individual families are creating play areas that appeal to youngsters and give them a safe place to move their muscles.
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Climbing is popular with children and newer playgrounds are often filled with innovative climbing toys. They can be in arched, domed or spiral shapes and made from either flexible or fixed materials. Climbing walls made from plastic hand and footholds challenge. The activity of climbing can strengthen muscles for youngsters, making them aware of their physical abilities and balance as well.
When children reach the age of four or five, they usually have enough upper body strength to enjoy hanging from bars or rings. Horizontal ladders provide an interesting way to move from one place to another. Track rides allow a child to grip a bar above her head that will carry and move her along a track. Suspended rings require good eye-hand coordination as well as strength as a school-age child reaches from one ring to the next. Children often get a boost in self-confidence when perseverance allows them to complete a course of overhead rings that was previously too difficult.
There are many styles of slides including wavy, straight and spiral that can have an open or chute formation. Children mount most slides by means of a ladder or set of stairs, but some are part of a complex structure that allow kids to reach the top of the slide by using other kinds of climbing systems. Some playgrounds have sliding poles, as well. These require considerable arm and upper body strength and should be reserved for children above the age of eight or so.
Playground swings come in two main styles: single-axis and multi-axis. Two chains or ropes suspend the typical back-and-forth single axis swing. A tire or disc often forms the seat of a multi-axis swing that can move in any direction. Kids improve their timing and rhythm as they learn to propel a swing. Toddlers should use swings that have bucket seats, which are closely supervised by a responsible adult.
Bouncing and BalancingToys
Spring rockers provide a good way for toddlers to exercise their leg muscles and their imaginations as they pretend to ride in a vehicle or on an animal. These toys are often not as challenging enough for older kids. Traditional seesaws or teeter-totters have a seat at each end of a long board or pole supported by a centre fulcrum. Spring-centred seesaws are better for preschool children because the springy fulcrum prevents hard landings if one child dismounts without warning. Many new playgrounds have added balancing toys to their equipment list. These include balance beams, log rolls, and stepping stones. All of these devices help children develop coordination and body control.
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