Like a lot of cognitive and physical processes, developing the senses takes practice. There is no better place for a child to practice using their senses that on kid’s playground equipment. Kid’s playground equipment offers the ideal opportunity for little bodies to explore their environment amongst the huge array of sensory stimulators all located within one fun space. The child’s body and mind uses its senses to process and organise the sensations being transferred between the body and the kid’s playground equipment. Each time a child enjoys playing on kid’s playground equipment they are further enhancing their ability to physically manoeuvre effectively and to interact appropriately in their stimulating environment. Kid’s playground equipment offers textures, sounds, sights and interactions that inspire a plethora of perception possibilities and offers the added bonus of being seriously good fun.
It is no secret that kid’s playground equipment has major cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits that proffer enormous advantages to a child’s development. Developments that have proven to significantly influence the success and happiness of a child’s future. However, there are other not so obvious advantages to kid’s playground equipment that also have positive effects that don’t receive the same levels of appreciation. Taking a deeper look into the enriching powers of kid’s playground equipment unearths the surprising potential that play offers the human senses.
It is common knowledge that he human body has five senses, however further studies have proven that there are in fact seven senses that we rely upon to guide us through life safely by warning us of dangers and triggering a response action. Five of these senses are external and two are internal.
The human body uses at least one of these senses at every moment of every day, even when we are sleeping. Although we are usually born with these senses, like much cognitive and physical development, learning to enhance them and to accurately interpret the data that they transfer to our minds, takes practice.
What Are The Seven Senses?
The seven senses that the body requires to interpret the environment are sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, vestibular and proprioception. They work in unison, perpetually bombarding the brain with data that must be instantaneously recognised, organised and heeded. Some people are born minus one or more of these senses and some people lose the ability to use some of them through an accident or illness. Modern technology means that in some cases, the loss of sensory capacity can be managed with the wonders of state-of-the-art resources. Modern therapeutic practices can also assist a child with sensory processing issues. With some intervention it is perfectly possible for a child to grow into happy and successful adult despite having sensory issues.
Kid’s playground equipment is the ideal solution to maximising multi-sensory stimulation.
1. Sight – Vision is the capability of the eyes to focus on and detect images of visible light and to generate electrical nerve impulses to perceive a variety of colours, hues and brightness. The images are rapidly passed along to the brain where they are processed, organised and recognised to differentiate data and to interpret visual stimuli. Kid’s playground equipment offers the opportunity for little ones to practice the quick identification of images accurately, developing the ability to react appropriately to the environment. For example, the humble playground slide offers the chance for a child’s eyes to practice depth perception to anticipate when they will reach the bottom of the slide. This allows them to predict the moment that they need to prepare their feet for impact onto the ground. A recent study conducted in the U.S.A showed that children who indulge in playing on kid’s playground equipment have better distance vision that those who do not. A potential issue for those children that can have worrying implications when it comes to simple tasks such as crossing the road.
Swinging along Monkey bars or scaling a climbing wall not only involves muscle strength but also requires accurate hand-to-eye coordination to ensure that the swing and the grip action occurs at exactly the right moment. Early development of this sophisticated action means having the advanced dexterity to successfully complete complex school assignments in later education, such as science projects and crafts.
2. Sound – Hearing is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations and changes in the air. Although hearing happens through the ears, the real effect of hearing development happens in the brain. It is the auditory centres of the brain that make sense of sounds, which means that the brain structures must be stimulated if they are to develop.
Language is learned through the exposure to sounds and children pick up words that they hear in their environment. When a child is playing in a sandbox or splash box they are unknowingly developing maths and science capacity language through the use of words such as half, full and empty.
The ability to listen, process data and react to it, impacts a child’s ability to learn how to read and write and can also greatly influence their communication skills.
When a child crawls through a dark tunnel they perceive data through the echo sound that is created. This develops a sense of depth perception as they begin to understand the connection between the echo and the rebound time of the sound.
3. Touch – Somatosensory is the perception resulting from the activation of neural receptors in the skin as it responds to pressure, brushing sensations and sustained contact (amongst others). The touch system works when receptors are triggered by stimulus, the signal is then passed to a dedicated area in the brain. The sense of touch is the very first sense to be felt when an unborn baby interacts with its environment prenatally as early as 16 weeks. After birth the appropriate touching from a parent is known to improve a babies chances of successfully developing socially, emotionally and intellectually. When it comes to play, the act of touch stimulates sensors within the muscles and joints, sending a message to the brain and receiving an instruction in return. Every swing, jump, crawl, stomp and fall is a learning moment that improves fundamental coordination, reaction time, self-esteem and physical confidence.
4. Smell – Olfaction is our ability to detect scents, which are chemical molecules in the air. Hundreds of receptors in the nose receive the ‘smell’ and transfer the data to the brain. One of the senses that is the least understood, exactly how this data is interpreted is still being studied. However, one thing that we do know is that (perhaps surprisingly) the sense of smell is known to be the premier stimulant for the brain to trigger recollection. Enhancing the memory has obvious advantages when it comes to recalling information learnt in school.
Kid’s playground equipment such as scented water play fountains or tables of scented play dough or fondant can help to increase a child’s vocabulary, as it takes imagination to be able to describe a scent. Plus a child’s familiarity with different smells can go along way to helping them to engage with new foods, so that they are more likely to have a healthier and varied diet.
5. Taste – The human bodies sense of taste is a two-tiered chemical reaction that involves both the mouth and the throat (for taste) and the nose (for smell). We are born with 10,000 taste buds on the tongue and around the mouth. Much like ‘smell’ the sense of taste can help with expanding the descriptive vocabulary and in encouraging children to try new foods. The ideal kid’s playground equipment to encourage sensory taste would be role-play apparatus. Role-play provides the opportunity to practice common societal roles such as grocer and customer. Teacher led learning using real food is a great tool for introducing new fruits and vegetables to children.
1. Vestibular – The first of the two internal senses, vestibular is our sense of movement and balance. Close to the brain instructors that allow us to hear, the system allows us to feel overall motion, such as up or down in a lift, the forward motion of a car or the drag verses lift of an aircraft during take off.
2. Proprioception – This is the body’s sense of awareness in muscle stretch, telling us where our bodies end and the rest of the world begins. This is the system that allows to descend stairs without looking down at them and informs us of where our foot is in relation to the floor.
Each sense has its own benefits and combined, they allow a child to develop in built safety mechanisms, such as the flight or fight response.
Kid’s Playground Equipment And Sensory Rooms
Some children may have problems receiving and processing incoming sensory data and this can make everyday tasks at home and school difficult. Modern occupational therapists applaud the powers of sensory rooms in which modern techniques are applied to assist these children in developing their sensory processes. A sensory room is a therapeutic opportunity in a space dedicated to the exploration of the seven human senses and they have been proven to increase fine motor skills, improve communication, develop self awareness and, in turn, general learning abilities.
From 16 weeks gestation, to the moment of birth, through early childhood and past the teen years, children use their senses to explore the world and try to make sense of their environment. Kid’s playground equipment challenges the five well know senses by engaging their sight, sound, touch, taste and smell perceptions. Kid’s playground equipment also engages the two not so well known senses of vestibular and proprioception. When engrossed on kid’s playground equipment a child’s seven senses are all engaged simultaneously, making huge inroads into forming lasting neural pathways within the brain that a child calls upon to keep them safe throughout their lives.
Kid’s playground equipment turns simple, fun play into a powerful tool for developing vital senses for overall enhanced child development.