Age Appropriate Play

Age Appropriate Play

Child development experts and parents agree play is an essential part of childhood. Outdoor play areas can help children develop physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. However children of different ages have dramatically different needs for developmentally appropriate play experiences. Having separate play areas marked by signage indicating each age-appropriate area is strongly recommended by industry standards. Guidelines have been created by organizations such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) to help make America’s play areas developmentally appropriate, more enjoyable, and safer for all children.

Shop by Age

Ages: 6 months – 23 months

Play areas for children 6 months through 23 months should offer places where children can have space to move and explore. Children of this age group are largely influenced by sensory development. They will explore their environment with their eyes, hands, feet, torsos and mouths. They are predominantly at ground or floor level during this stage and will need space to explore their area away from older peers. Appropriate play areas for this group should provide places to crawl, sit-up, pull up, stand, and walk. Some examples of age appropriate equipment for a 6 to 23 month old child are:

– Climbing equipment under 32” high
– Ramps
– Single file step ladders
– Slides of modest height
– Spring rockers
– Stairways
– Swings with full bucket seats
– Low crawl tunnels
– Activity panels
– Pull-Up

Shop 6 – 23 Months

Ages: 2-5 years

This group is also referred to as preschool aged children. They are new to the playground and will require a area of their own that is physically challenging but sized appropriately. Play areas for children ages 2-5 should offer challenges such as climbing over and under play elements. Their play area should have play activities that promote socialization and fine motor skills. Appropriate play areas for children ages 2 – 5 could include: areas to crawl; low platforms with multiple access such as ramps and ladders; ramps with pieces attached for grasping; low tables for sand, water and manipulation of materials; tricycle paths with various textures; flexible spring rockers; sand areas with covers; and shorter slides. As dramatic play and imitation of older children begins at this stage an area with adult supervision is extremely important for safe play. Some examples of age appropriate equipment for a 2 to 5 year old child are:

– Certain climbers
– Horizontal ladders less than or equal to 60” high for ages 4 and 5 only
– Ramps
– Rung ladders
– Single file step ladders
– Slides
– Spiral slides up to 360°
– Spring riders
– Crawl Tunnels
– Activity panels that promote fine motor skills
– Themed activity panels that promote fantasy play
– Stairways
– Swings: belt, full bucket seats (2-4 years) & rotating tire

Shop 2 – 5 Years

Ages: 5-12 years

School-age children range from 5-12 years old and at this stage they are rapidly learning and building their skills. Developmentally they are moving towards more complex play and seek increased levels of physical challenges to remain occupied. They are constantly refining their fine and gross motor skills, coordination, balance and strength. School aged children will now have highly developed socialization skills and in turn they start to find creative ways to incorporate play elements into activities such as competitions, or imaginative and elaborate games. Developmentally appropriate play areas for school-age children could include: rope or chain climbers on angles; climbing pieces; horizontal bars; cooperative pieces such as tire swings, slides and sliding poles; and open spaces to run and play ball. Their space should provide both physical and mental challenges to keep the older children occupied, engaged and out of trouble. Some examples of age appropriate equipment for a 5 to 12 year old child are:

– Arch climbers
– Chain or cable walks
– Freestanding climbing events with flexible parts
– Spinners
– Fitness Equipment
– Ladders – Horizontal, Rung, and Step
– Overhead rings
– Merry-go-rounds
– Ramps
– Slides
– Spiral slides more than one 360° turn
– Stairways
– Swings – belt and rotating tire
– Track rides
– Vertical sliding poles
– Sports Equipment

Shop 5 – 12

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