I have seen children play on many different playgrounds. They are always attracted to anything that moves: swings, merry-go-rounds, spinners, see saws and spring riders. There is something about the action and reaction created that is fascinating and exciting for the child. Not only is the movement stimulating, but they get a kick from making something happen! They push and it moves; they pump and it swings; they jump and it springs.
This is simple learning by playing. Without consciously knowing it, the children begin to understand some basic principles of physics and develop a natural curiosity for learning new concepts.
Learning by Playing: Alexander W. Kemp Playground (Cambridge, MA)
The learning by playing is shown so nicely at the newly renovated Alexander W. Kemp Playground at Cambridge Common. Recently named by Huffington Post as one of the Top 10 Best Playgrounds for Fun-Filled Adventures, this park completely embodies the discovery and curiosity of learning through play. Some of the features include:
This huge area allows children to experiment with the flow of water and how to build with the sand. They find all kinds of ways to play with the water system: they direct the water flow to the channels with one of the basin valves, dam the water in the channels with blocks or sand, and create mud pies and sand castles.
The water play area spills into the sand play where there is a conveyor belt for moving the sand from one place to another. Buckets on pulleys transport the sand from the ground to the platform or into the silo down to the sieve.
I’ve never seen children so engrossed and focused on “their work” than those playing at Alexander W. Kemp. They play construction worker, crane operator, architect, engineer, and project manager. And, the list continues as they discover new ways to use the equipment. I was also so impressed with how well all of these children (and I do mean many children) played together. Each new project was a team effort, whether it was to stop the water, dig the pit, or to move the sand. This is a fantastically designed play structure that is open-ended, allowing kids to cultivate creativity and use their imaginations to explore.
I’ll tell you more about it next time.