Construction of two new and exciting playgrounds at Montessori School Bali (MSB) has begun. Monkey bars, a flying fox, tire swings, a climbing gym, movable boxes, balancing planks and more are all set to be part of the final (plastic-free) playgrounds.
It sounds like a lot of fun, but as MSB principal Jan Gaffney explains, for children playgrounds are about much more than just letting off steam or burning up some energy. Intelligent playgrounds provide opportunities for children to develop physical strength, coordination and socialisation skills that all have an academic impact as well.
“From birth, movement is a human need. As children, we need to challenge ourselves and stretch our limits,” Jan says. “The more we push ourselves to discover what we are capable of, the more control we develop over our bodies and movement, and the more aware we are of our capabilities. This blends over into social and academic areas as well, resulting in more fully rounded people.”
Installing playgrounds that challenge children to take reasonable risks, test limits and push their boundaries lets them see what they can do with their bodies so they can develop healthy self-confidence and self-esteem, she says.
“Montessori is about pushing a little bit harder in order to see what you are capable of: We do that in our classrooms academically, and we also do it socially and physically. It’s all about growth. A challenging playground that lets you take some risks lets you see that as you get older, you can do more and more.”
A good playground does more than just promote physical health and confidence, too. It also helps academically.
For instance, to develop writing, you need core strength, as well as strength in your shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers; you need to be able to sit up straight without leaning on your hands (and you often see children today needing to lean over a desk to support their head with their hand as they write). This is where the humble monkey bars come in.
Playing on monkey bars helps a child develop their core strength, shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers. Spending some time each day on monkey bars develops flexibility and coordination, and allows a child to test their limits as they develop confidence physically, while also laying the foundation for great handwriting.
“There’s been an assumption that we don’t need handwriting anymore because we’ve got computers and we should all learn to type instead,” Jan says. “But research is showing that handwriting, and cursive writing in particular, helps develop the brain in an integrated manner, bringing together the left and right hemispheres. Even if we are not using handwriting as much, the ability to learn and use it is helpful to our overall cognitive development.”
MSB will have a preschool playground featuring monkey bars, a tower with swings and slide, tires for balancing and old tree trunks arranged for climbing over. The ability to socialise is another skill honed in the playground, and the new playground’s differently sized boxes and cubes with planks in between that offer children opportunities to make to their own arrangements will help on this front as well.
The primary playground meanwhile will boast a flying fox for thrills, coordination and core strenth, monkey bars at two heights plus a climbing jungle gym made of recycled ulin to help children really push their limits. A hexagonal swing set with vertical tires for swings that move into the centre with the potential to connect will provide a group or individual activity.
MSB’s Parents and Teachers Association raised money during last year’s Twilight Market to support the playground development. More equipment will be added in a second phase.
Once complete, parts of the playground will be considered open to children during their three-hour work cycle—another hallmark of the Montessori classroom allowing children to develop the focus required for deep work—not just for play.
“Children having difficulty with writing, for example, would be able to spend 10 minutes on the monkey bars and then come back inside to do their handwriting; children’s play is their work,” Jan says.
The new playgrounds at MSB will be a lot of fun. But they will be so much more: Intelligently designed and assembled, they will promote children’s self-esteem, encourage essential physical development that has academic benefits, and provide a space for socialisation.
* Montessori School Bali accepts enrollments year-round. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +62 812 8500 4579 to make an appointment for an observation.
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