Playground climbing equipment, it’s something fun for the children to do at playtimes, right? Well, although that’s true, it actually does a lot more for children than you might think. Here we look at some of the incredible benefits children get when schools install climbing equipment in their playgrounds.
1. Makes pupils healthier
Although kids won’t see it that way, a climbing frame is a kind of outdoor gym and playing on it gives them a good physical workout. With all that climbing, swinging, jumping, crawling and goodness knows what other maneuverers they get up to, they’ll exercise every muscle in their bodies. That makes it great for building up their strength and fitness and for improving their cardiovascular health.
All that exercise helps burn off the calories too, and with the latest 2021 figures showing 40.9% of all year 6 students were either overweight or obese, providing fun, active play equipment is one of the best ways to encourage more exercise. Indeed, research from Liverpool John Moors University has shown that when climbing equipment is installed in school playgrounds, children’s participation in moderate to vigorous activity increases by around 30 minutes per week and 70% of them show an improvement in their general health and fitness.
2. Great for wellbeing
Even before the pandemic, one in eight children had a recognised mental health condition. Today, that figure is likely to be much higher, even among the youngest pupils. While some pupils obviously need professional help from mental health services, the great thing about physical activity is that it can give a mental boost to every child. Playing on a climbing frame is ideal for this, as the moderate to vigorous activity can increase endorphin levels, reduce stress and improve mood, helping pupils to feel less anxious and happier. And of course, happy kids behave better and learn better too.
3. Makes kids more independent
In order to help children learn better and to prepare them for adulthood, they need to be able to think for themselves and act independently. Unstructured free play is where that journey begins and equipment like climbing frames is great for nurturing that growing independence, as children will need to make their own decisions about the risks they face and the obstacles they overcome.
4. Helps children take on challenge
Challenge – it’s one of OFSTED’s favourite buzzwords. Schools are constantly being told of the need to increase challenge in order to get pupils to attain higher. However, increasing challenge doesn’t necessarily mean children will accept it. Indeed, not all pupils have the self-confidence or the inclination to take on greater challenge.
What makes climbing frames particularly useful here is that they make challenge fun. Can I cross this traversing wall without falling off? Can I get from one end of the jungle bars to the other? Can I get around the entire frame doing it the hard way? Taking on these challenges in the playground improves their overall confidence and this can improve it in the classroom too.
5. Develops resilience
Resilience is just as important as accepting challenge, for the simple reason that if someone fails at something, they need to have the inner determination to get back up and have another go. Resilience is best developed through failing at small, inconsequential things. If a child takes a week to master a route across a climbing wall, the resilience they will have built up trying and trying again will better serve them to try harder when they don’t do so well in an important classroom test.
On a climbing frame, failure isn’t so consequential, but it improves resilience and drives the determination to succeed. With climbing equipment offering a wide range of challenges, there’s plenty of potential to develop that resilience and harden their resolve.
6. Improves social skills
Climbing frames allow children to play on their own or with friends, and it’s when they are with friends that opportunities arise to develop those all-important social skills. For a start, they’ll need to understand the importance of rule-making and turn-taking. Then there are the negotiations about which routes and challenges the group are going to take. They’ll also learn to give support and advice to any friends struggling to get around.
Some climbing equipment is also themed and this makes it ideal for roleplay, an activity children love and which helps them explore and understand the world from other people’s perspectives.
As you can see, there is a lot more to playground climbing equipment than just having fun. And today, there is a wide range of climbing equipment to choose from, each with its own appeal and challenge. These include our Trim Trails obstacle courses, Free-Flow climbing frames, Tangled rope play equipment, climbing walls, and a wide range of EYFS play towers.
For more information about all these, visit our Climbing Equipment page.