Play is an important part of a child’s social and physical development. As children explore playground equipment and participate in games, they learn how to interact appropriately with others, follow rules, and stay safe. In addition to schools and backyards, children often have access to playgrounds in day-care centers, shopping malls, and parks. If you buy children’s playgrounds online or in a store, consider the types of games and activities the children will be able to enjoy and safety guidelines to enforce.
Playground Games and Activities
A child can play independently or with other children on a playground. Going down a slide, running through a maze, and swinging are activities a child can do alone. Children might play with a jump rope, Hula-Hoop, or ball by themselves or in cooperation with others. When there is a group of children on the playground, they can participate in cooperative games. Playground supervisors help children stay safe by teaching rules and demonstrating appropriate behaviors.
Tag is a traditional playground game. The simplest version involves a player who is “it” running after other players and trying to tag them. Teach players how to safely tag another person by gently touching them. There are many variations of this game. In Rainbow Tag, the player who is “it” calls out a color. Other players who are wearing clothing with that color must run across the play area and try to avoid being tagged. In the game Capture the Flag, children form two teams. Each team has a flag that the opponents attempt to take. If a child is tagged while trying to get the flag, the child stays in a holding area until freed by a teammate.
Ball games are another fun playground activity. Four Square is a traditional game in which a large square is drawn on the ground and subdivided into four smaller squares. A player standing in the first square serves the ball to a player in one of the other squares, who then must immediately hit the ball into another square. Play ends if a player misses the ball or serves it incorrectly or if the ball bounces twice in a square. The player who is out is replaced by a child who is waiting to play. If there is sufficient space and equipment, children can play other team games, such as kickball, basketball, and football.
Jump-rope games can include many players. Two children turn the rope while other players take turns jumping through it. In one game, during the first round, each player attempts to run under the turning rope without being touched by it. In the second round, each player takes a turn doing a single jump. In the third round, they make two jumps of the rope. With each round, the players try to add one more jump to their previous record.
Safety Guidelines for the Playground
Children should always have adult supervision when they use playground equipment. Adults can direct children to age-appropriate activities and teach them how to use new structures. To reduce the risk of falling, children should wear supportive shoes. Secure the child’s shoelaces, drawstrings, and other loose items of clothing that could get tangled during play.
Teach children playground rules and etiquette so that their play time will be safer and more enjoyable. When learning to use a slide, for example, the child should be instructed to hold onto the sides and not attempt to climb the wrong way up the slide. Common playground courtesies include taking turns, being patient with other children, and not blocking the entrance to an activity. Remind children to not run after a ball that rolls into a street.
Playground equipment can deteriorate over time, and older playgrounds may no longer be safe. Inspect structures for dangers, including cracks, tears, splinters, exposed sharp edges, missing guardrails, uneven surfaces, and any space where a child could get trapped. The ground beneath a play area should be covered with a protective product such as a rubber mat, wood chips, or sand. Look for obstacles that might cause a child to trip. If you plan to buy children’s playgrounds online or through a local vendor, verify that the seller uses safety-tested materials. Visit a playground that uses the type of equipment you are interested in purchasing to check the quality of the construction, its durability, and safety.
- Fun Fitness Games for Kids
- How to Play Capture the Flag
- Putting the Play Back in Playground (PDF)
- Cooperative Games for Recess
- Science on the Playground for First and Second Grade
- Age-Appropriate Playground Design
- Playgrounds for Ages 2 to 12
- Playground and Outdoor Play Safety
- Soft Contained Play Equipment Safety Checklist
- More Places to Play for Kids with Special Needs
- Study Shows Natural Playgrounds More Beneficial
- Make Playground Safe Zones
- Easy Tips for Playground and Park Safety
- Ten Tips for Playground Fun
- Playgrounds Shouldn’t Hurt: Play Safe
- Playground and Recess Behavior Expectations