Fall Fun on the Playground

One of the most enjoyable things for me, as a school secretary, was to spend a few moments in a day watching the kids on the playground at Hawthorne School. I love the unbridled enthusiasm with which kids join in the hard work of playtime.

Recess time provided a much-needed break in the school day- both for kids and for teachers. Playground equipment got its share of wear and tear from the hundreds of little hands and feet that played there daily.

Several years before I left Hawthorne, the Parent Council undertook some fundraising to help pay for new playground equipment. The new equipment was a different design than any in town and it immediately caught the imagination of the entire student body.

The first morning after installation was complete there was a line of kids stretching around the perimeter like an undulating snake. Once the rope barrier was removed there was a swarm of excitement as kids climbed, swung, leapt, spun and maneuvered their way over, under and through the new play pieces.

Obviously, it was a hit! And it still is. Even now, when I drive or walk by the playground during recess time, eager kids are putting the play equipment through its paces. I hope the Parent Council knows just how much the pleasure meter went up as a result of their investment in a new playground.

Besides the play equipment, Hawthorne’s playground sports a soccer field, a ball field and an asphalt area for jump rope, four-square, basketball and a legion of other games that children like to play.

Do you wonder what my point in mentioning all of this is? Well, let me ask you this- do you know how many bandaids and ice packs it takes to get through a school year when you have over 300 kiddos playing outdoors every day? Now do you get my point?

Exactly. Playground safety is a big focus at most schools today. Obviously, close supervision helps keep injuries to a minimum. But there are other things that can be done to help make your child’s playground a safe fun-zone. Check out this nice tip sheet from the National Safety Council.

Another way to keep kids safe on school playgrounds is to educate them. That sounds a bit crazy since they’ve just spent their day inside the building being educated. But it’s really important that your child know how to safely access and ride play equipment, how to safely use a baseball bat- even a plastic or foam one, or how to avoid hurting a friend by not swinging a hard plastic jump rope out in an arc.

You see, a school playground has to have rules in order to provide a safe environment for kids. And following rules is a life skill that’s important to learn at an early age. So, in many ways, your child’s education doesn’t begin and end at the door of the school.

It extends out onto the playground as your child figures out what’s okay to do and what isn’t okay. The scope of your child’s education encompasses his academic life, his social life, his ability to remember and follow rules in different situations, and even knowing where his physical capabilities begin and end.  Who knew there was so much to learn at school?

So, how can you help your child be as safe as possible on the playground? First, check if your school has a set of playground rules. At Hawthorne School, the playground rules were always included in the Parent Handbook that we sent home at the beginning of the school year.

If your school has such a list of rules, take a few minutes and go over them with your child. Make sure he/she understands what it means when it says, “No bailing from swings” or “Jump ropes may not be used to play ‘crack the whip’”.

Take a weekend trip to the school playground and let your child show you how she plays on or with the equipment. She’ll feel special to have your undivided attention and you’ll be able to assess any unsafe techniques or habits your child has developed.

Taking a few moments now to instruct your child on how to properly play on the playground will be well worth the hour you might have to squeeze into your busy weekend.

And who knows? You may end up having an amazing hour of play with your child. Grab on to that time and don’t let go! Just stay in the moment and revel in it. Because tomorrow, or even this afternoon, you will probably be back on the tilt-o-whirl of life.

In closing, I hope that you and your family have a happy and safe new school year. Don’t forget to take time this week to enjoy the ride, even if there are a few bumps along the way.

Cathie

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