The Importance of Playground Play

Dr. Suma Metla, a pediatric physical therapist, shares ways keiki can level-up their play skills.


A trip to the playground can be an exciting day for you and your child, full of adventure and activity. There are a few ways that you can use the playground to level-up your child’s play skills.


Ana Klipper - Playground Play

Photo: Ana Klipper/Unsplash


Climbing Slides


Slides are not just for sliding down! You can also use them to climb up to the top of play structures. This is an excellent activity for your child to work on overall strengthening and is a way to prepare them for the rock climbing sections of playgrounds.

Be sure other children on the playground are not trying to slide down the slide at the same time as your child climbing up the slide.


Doing Animal Walks


Animal walks are a fun way for your child to be creative while engaging in play. Call out an animal name (dog, cat, elephant, penguin, etc.) and encourage your child to walk like that animal.

You can add on to this activity by changing the terrain. Start the activity on concrete or a firm surface. Then move onto softer or inclined surfaces like sandy areas or hills. You can also try to engage in animal walks on playgrounds that have mobile areas like mobile bridges.

If you attempt animal walks on playground equipment, be on the lookout for any other children who may be trying to pass by.


Jumping Down From a Step


If your child is not jumping independently, the playground is an excellent way to work on that skill. Generally, jumping-down happens before jumping in place. Encourage your child to stand on the first step of the staircase on the playground. Let them hold your hands, and say, “jump!” It’s okay if your child jumps down with one leg at a time. With practice, your child will be able to jump down with both feet at the same time.

To take it further, transition away from holding your child’s hands as they become more comfortable with jumping down.


Creating an Obstacle Course


An obstacle course is a great way to work on your child’s memory, endurance and strength skills. Create a sequence of playground activities or equipment for your child and ask them to go through the obstacle course on their own. For example: start with the tunnel, climb the stairs, then go down the slide.


Playing Find the Shape


Call out a shape to your child and ask them to find it at the playground. For example, call out ‘circle’. You can your child can walk around the playground to find all circle-shaped items like a tunnel. This activity not only works on physical activity, but it also works on shape-identifying.

Safety Tips

Adult supervision is needed when engaged in playground activities, especially with climbing slides and with jumping skills.

An adult should never place a child in their lap when sliding down a slide to protect your child’s growing bones. Each person should slide down independently. If a child needs assistance with a slide, an adult can stand close to the slide and assist accordingly.