Movement…Who Knew

Who knew…. the first playground in the US was opened in 1887 in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA? the first municipal playground was opened in 1903 in Seward Park in New York City, NY? Think back; way back; maybe to the ‘50s, ‘60s or ‘70s.  Think back to the playground outside of elementary schools, in parks or at beaches.  All of these had monkey bars, swings, a slide, a merry-go-round, and a see-saw.  How many afternoons did you spend swinging, sliding and spinning when you were a child?  At recess wasn’t there always a race to see who could get to the swings first? President Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech to the Washington Playground Association on February 16, 1907 stated “City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime.  Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools.  This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children cannot afford to pay carfare.” There are six types of movement: inverted, rotary, linear, oscillation, heavy work and crashing.  Each form of movement is essential to normal brain development.  Here are the definitions and the ways playground apparatuses provide for these movements:




Inverted Upside down. Hanging by the knees on the monkey bars.
Rotary Spinning. Merry-go-round; spinning on the swings.
Linear Moving forward or backward. Going down the slide.
Oscillation Moving forward and backward in place. Swings; see-saw.
Heavy Work Pushing. Pushing someone on the swings; pushing to turn the merry-go-round.
Crashing Wrestling. Playing tag; rough-housing on the ground.

Children need to move.  Each of these six ways provides an outlet for stored energy and vital stimulation to create an environment in which the brain can develop normally.  When a child is crying the normal response to soothe the child is to pick them up and rock them. Why do children fall asleep in the car seat during a car ride?  How many of our parents told us to “go outside and run around” to stop us from fighting with siblings or misbehaving?  Movement is nature’s way of calming and rebalancing an agitated state of mind. Maybe if more children played outside; hung upside down by their knees on monkey bars; pumped so high on the swings they thought they were flying; or spun so fast on the merry-go-round they could not stand when they got off today’s children would exhibit less behavior problems? I have an idea.  Let’s all go to the playground and swing as high as we can.  I bet we would all feel better.

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