Climbing benefits our children in so many amazing ways…
Children learning to climb often induces feelings of terror for first time and experienced parents alike. In reality, learning to climb
is a normal part of their development. What’s more, it is actually really good for them (provided the climbing structure is sound – radiators and bookcases are not a good idea!).
The developmental potential to be gained from climbing is remarkable. Think back to when you were little; the climbing frame was likely to be the first thing in the playground that everyone made a beeline for and nothing beat the adrenaline rush when you reached the top to become King of the Castle!
Sadly nowadays children are becoming increasingly used to a sedentary lifestyle and sedentary activities. They love their phones and tablets, and even for those who love sports and outdoor adventures the scope for ‘fun’ appears to have narrowed due to a variety of safety concerns. Parents seem more likely to shout “Get down from that tree!” than encourage their little ones to go out and challenge themselves.
And since no time is like the present; we really must start to give our children some of their freedom back. The onus is on us as caregivers to combat the disturbing notions that we are in danger of moving backwards as a species if we don’t allow and encourage our children to use their bodies in the way they were designed to use them.
Sue Palmer, a former head teacher and author of the book Toxic Childhood says:
'’Children are biologically equipped for outdoor exercise and exploration. As we increasingly substitute this sort of activity with screen-based, consumer-driven entertainment, there’s a danger we’ll lose touch with many of the skills that have helped human beings survive through the millennia.’’
The good news is that many schools are getting wise to this notion. Outdoor play and outdoor learning are becoming regular features in lesson plans across the country. 2017 saw Ofsted release advice to the country’s schools and nurseries in favour of keeping their outdoor play equipment and climbing frames because of all the benefits they have.
Schools are now installing some wonderful outdoor learning spaces using quality playground equipment. Allowing them to capitalise on and unleash the benefits that can be gained from allowing children to do what comes naturally to them!
We have been lucky enough to work with St Benedicts School in Ealing to provide them with what can only be described as a playground of dreams! St Benedicts pride themselves on offering a unique and seamless approach to co-curricular education for children from nursery through to sixth-form age. In keeping with their reputation for excellence they came straight to us at Rainbow Play when they wanted extend their outdoor playground facilities. We think it is fair to say that the finished result is beautiful and one that not only keeps the children safe whilst they play but also gives them that all-important access to climbing frame play!
But just what is it that compels children to climb? Well, all that stretching, reaching and swinging, pulling and pushing with their limbs is what teaches them awareness of their bodies and the space that they are in. Not only does it improve their spatial awareness, it also works children’s muscles so that they grow, strengthen and develop as they should.
Climbing promotes cardio-vascular fitness too. The act of climbing across monkey bars or up to the top of a structure takes some doing and requires energy. Balance and coordination are also improved as children have to manoeuvre themselves up rock walls, across bridges and step or jump between levels. All these movements; stretching and circling arms and legs, standing on tiptoes to reach, jumping and landing, when enjoyed on a regular basis, trigger muscle memory and teach children body control.
It is these big movements that our Early Years learners need under their belts in order to master the smaller movements which require fine motor skills. For example, by mastering all the big arm movements they are then in a much better position to master the smaller and more intricate ones such as forming letters as they learn to write.
Going back to Ofsted’s advice, climbing helps children learn about independence, risk taking and survival. Arguably some of the most important skills a person must learn in life.
Children need to learn how and when to, or when not to, take calculated risks for themselves. If they don’t learn how to do this when they are young they may struggle with all sorts of real-life problems when they are older. Climbing allows children to be in a situation where they must continuously assess the risk so as not to fall and hurt themselves.
Allowing children the opportunity to climb in safe and supported environments means that they can learn how to assess and navigate risk and how to overcome it themselves. The majority of children have a natural sense of adventure. Capturing this and allowing them to learn from it will aid their personal development far better than stunting and quashing it.
Recent surveys conducted by The National Trust revealed some interesting results:
- Fewer than 10% of children play in wild places; down from 50% a generation ago
- Three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed, then from falling out of trees
These are particularly poignant statistics when you consider that it is our children and the formative years of their life which are at risk of being damaged by society’s rapidly evolving cultures and our compliance with them. We should and must continue to take advantage of every opportunity to get our little ones outside and moving. Just by getting out in the fresh air and doing what they love to do they are bettering their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Climbing doesn’t need to be technical. They just need to go out and give it a go.
Climbing frames, rock walls, Jacobs ladders, monkey bars - basically any form of climbing frame activity presents a great mental challenge for children.
It challenges their ability to logically plan how to get from a-to-b. They need to think about how to move their bodies to reach their destination without falling or injuring themselves. Simply put, it is stimulation for the body and the mind! A climbing frame might be just that one day, and a giant’s den, a princess’s castle, a spy’s base or a pirate’s cove the next! With their powerful little imaginations in charge, the possibilities really are endless!
If you are looking to install outdoor play equipment and/or a wooden climbing frame at a school or other commercial setting and would like help with ideas; or would like to hear more about what we can offer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.rainbowplay.co.uk. We have a fabulous range of specially designed; commercially compliant climbing frames; providing a whole host of different physical challenges for children to overcome!
*Thank you to St Benedicts School in Ealing for contributing the images for this article.*