Playground Evaluation – Site Visit
PSY105 – Introduction to Human Development
I often bring my boyfriend’s six year old daughter to the Chapel Hill Park called the Southern Community Park playground. She loves going there because of the swings and the monkey bars but once there, she uses almost every piece of equipment the playground has to offer. Three pieces of playground equipment that she, and other children, use that safely support physical growth are the monkey bars, rock climbing wall, and balancing steps. Each piece aides in the development of either fine or gross motor skills are various states of early and middle childhood.
The Southern Community Park playground offers different varieties of monkey bars. There are the typical straight bars, rings that move, rings that do not move, and wheels that turn either right or left when the child hangs on. There are all types at the middle childhood playground but only the straight bars at the, smaller, early childhood playground. The monkey bars are made out of colored metal which is a perfect surface for swinging on, but it can be very hot to the touch in the summer time.
I have witnessed monkey bars being easy to navigate for some children and very challenging for others. On the early childhood playground, parents lift their toddlers up to the bars and encourage them to grasp the straight bars while they help them move from rung to rung. This is helping the children develop fine motor skills of gripping the bar (Morin, 2018). On the middle childhood playground, parents watch from nearby to prevent serious falls, but encourage their child to try on their own. By doing so, they are helping their child develop fine motor skills, like stated above, and also gross motor skills of swinging their body across the bars (Morin, 2018).
The senses being stimulated on the monkey bars include touch and sight as the child has to hold on but also visualize the next bar in order to get to it. The type of play on monkey bars includes mastery and cognitive. Monkey bars initiate the mastery type of play because of the gripping action in combination with the movement of the body are difficult gross motor skills to develop. The bars also activate cognitive type of play because it takes thinking through a series of steps to get from one side to the other without falling (Shapiro & Maras, 2016).
Rock Climbing Wall
The rock climbing wall at the Southern Community Park playground is smaller than what you would see at a rock climbing facility but is big enough that kids can get a few pulls in before getting to the top. For safety reasons, there are no ropes necessary and the wall is at an angle where falls are less likely. Climbing helps middle childhood groups develop gross motor skills (Morin, 2018). There are climbing features other than a wall on the early childhood side of the playground that also help form gross motor skills but not a climbing wall because of the difficulty involved. There are some fine motor skills being developed by the action of gripping the pulls in order to use the gross motor skills to move up the wall (Feldman, 2017).
Senses of touch and sight are being stimulated on the rock climbing wall because the children have to touch the pulls with their hands and feet while navigation visually up the wall. Mastery and cognitive types of play are again being used for the rock climbing wall (Shapiro & Maras, 2016). The gross motor skills needed to move up the wall while coordinating hands and feet at specific points provide the basis for the two types of play. The climbing wall is made of plastic and rubber which is better during hot days and is easy to climb on because it provides grip for hands and shoes.
The balancing steps are a series of circular pods that sit on unstable springs so that when the child walks over them they have to balance as they go. Any child that can either walk or jump across the steps can use this piece of playground equipment. I have noticed that older playgrounds do not have this type of equipment but new ones do. I believe this is because they do help develop gross motor skills of balance and coordination so they are being installed more frequently now. Early childhood gross motor skills are developed when the young child can climb on and try to stand on one of the steps. The balance needed to just stand there is enough to develop skills of concentration for an early childhood age child. Middle childhood aged children develop more gross motor skills by not just stepping on, but stepping through all of the steps to get to the other side (Feldman, 2017). I’ll admit this can be tricky for adults too!
Sight and touch are the two senses being stimulated on the balancing steps. The sight is because of the vision needed to move from one to another and the touch is on the feet, in trying to find the right balance to avoid falling off. The types of play that are being used are mastery and rough and tumble (Shapiro & Maras, 2016). The mastery type of play comes with the development of gross motor skills on the balance steps. The rough and tumble type of play is being used because of the likelihood of a child falling off of this equipment. I have seen many children not be able to balance all the way through and have to jump off to avoid falling. The steps are made out of metal with a slip resistant patch at the top to help with grip. The equipment is safe and can be used year-round because it only touches shoes and not skin.
The Southern Community Park playground offers many types of equipment for children in early or middle childhood can use to help support physical development. The playground was recently remodeled and given a soft, rubber, bouncy, mat under all equipment to promote safety of the children. With children of all ages hanging, climbing, and balancing on the equipment, this playground is a prime example of promoting physical growth in a safe environment for children.
Feldman, R. S. (2017). Life Span Development, 3rd Edition. [Vitalsource]. Retrieved from https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780134474717/
Morin, A. (2018). 5 Playground Activities That Can Help Your Child's Development. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/child-social-situations/playgrounds-playdates/5-playground-activities-that-can-help-your-childs-development?view=slideview
Shapiro, L. R., & Maras, M-H. (2016). Multidisciplinary investigation of child maltreatment. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
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