The playground: A big training course for motor skills

    In the nursery and kindergarten age, children are getting to know their bodies, figuring out all the things they can do and practicing to get better at everything. That is why it is important that the playground for a nursery and kindergarten is designed to support this development and strengthen the children’s basic motor skills. A playground for a nursery and kindergarten ought to be filled with elements that allow the children to improve and train the following three senses:

    1) The tactile sense
    2) The vestibular sense
    3) The kinesthetic sense

    Focusing more on physical activity and discussing it only becomes necessary when a child hits school age, which is when many children lose the intuitive joy of movement.
    At the same time, the playground should be a place where a child can practice different social skills and play with their peers, both in large and small groups. Many also overlook the importance of setting up some small sanctuaries where a child can hide and be alone for a while.

    A brief overview of the three senses

    1) The tactile sense
    The tactile sense, also called the sense of touch, is about sensations obtained via contact with the skin. Stimulating this sense requires inviting a child to touch and experiment with different materials and surfaces, thereby allowing their body to gain experiences with different surfaces and materials. Very young children examine things by ‘tasting’ them, while nursery and kindergarten children increasingly use their fingers.

    Part of the training of his sense can be improved through the classic water and sand games. However, it is also important to focus on having many different materials and surfaces present on the playground. Caring for animals or plants, carving and shaping figures, cooking or collecting insects for insect hotels are just some examples of specific activities that stimulate the tactile sense.

    For an example, see our reference project Ulvedalsskolen.

    2) The vestibular sense
    The vestibular sense is also called the balance sense. This sense governs our sense of balance and the sensation of the body in relation to gravity. The vestibular sense is located inside the ear, which is why strengthening this sense requires
    moving the head into different positions. It is our vestibular sense that tells our brain where we are in a given space, whether we are moving or standing still, how fast we are moving and in which direction.

    A child’s vestibular sense can be strengthened by spinning around, swinging, running or riding a bicycle/toy scooter. The vestibular sense is also strengthened by alternating between being very active and sitting still, as this is a way of training how fast one’s dizziness from pinning or swinging abates. Places for sitting are therefore also important for reinforcing this sense.
    Examples of vestibular sense training include swinging, sliding, jumping, spinning and balancing.

    3) The kinesthetic sense
    The kinesthetic sense is also called the sense of position. It signals to your brain where your joints and muscles are located. The child gains experience with positioning their body in relation to the surrounding space as well as bending, stretching, tensing and relaxing their uscles.
    Examples of training the kinesthetic sense include climbing on a climbing net, walking a tightrope, jumping on trampolines or playing ball games. This category includes hammocks, yoga and relaxation plateaus, swings, trampolines carousels and climbing facilities.
    See our reference project at Frajaskolen for further examples.