You will have noticed that many indoor playgrounds have ‘soft play’ foam pieces of equipment. They are colourful, and children enjoy the play opportunities they provide. We include some ‘soft play’ items as part of the GymbaROO-KindyROO equipment, for example; the wedge, the barrels and the mats, and they add important elements to the equipment circuits. So why have we chosen to stay with our well-known wooden equipment? There are very important reasons! Read on to find out what these are.
‘Abilities’ and health
Our wooden gym equipment was originally chosen for durability, adaptability, and the ability to be repaired and refurbished. Climate change, sustainability and the dangers of PVC, phthalates (and similar chemicals used in plastic/foam equipment), have supported our decision to keep a larger percentage of our equipment as wooden.
Our GymbaROO-KindyROO children become confident climbers, and the wooden rungs found on much of the equipment play a crucial role in developing skills in this area. Climbing the stegel, the fort, the overhead and ladders, requires strength, coordination, visual skills and timing. With repetition, GymbaROO-KindyROO children learn to climb freely without conscious thought, giving their proprioception system, (the feedback loop between the sensory receptors in the body), a good workout. Both the feet and hands are used to grip the rungs, and the firm properties of the wood enhance this action. The vestibular system is also used when the child is climbing. Through sensory integration, stimulated whilst climbing, children also develop gravitational security. It is gravitational security that is eventually used to build interpersonal relationships and positive mental health (1).
This all means that climbing is not just about now, but very much impacting the child’s future.
The brain likes security and predictability, but it thrives on novelty. A new climbing challenge is great for a developing brain. The wooden equipment allows the GymbaROO-KindyROO team to change the circuit often and easily. If the centres only had soft play equipment, the range of options for the circuit challenges would be significantly reduced. When a child arrives at the GymbaROO-KindyROO centre and sees a different layout with new challenges, the brain sets to work to meet the tasks ahead. The GymbaROO-KindyROO equipment is not found at public playgrounds, making the problem-solving experience different to other play experiences.
Children need to move to learn (2, 3), and at GymbaROO-KindyROO we aim to improve the quantity and quality of that learning by providing them with the best possible range of movement experiences safely available. Our wooden equipment plays an important role in enabling us to achieve this aim.
- Potegal M, May-Benson TA, Oxborough S, Hall A, McKnight S. Reduced Gain and Shortened Time Constant of Vestibular Velocity Storage as a Source of Balance and Movement Sensitivities in Gravitational Insecurity. Occupational Therapy International. 2022:1-9.
- Chaddock L, Voss MW, Kramer AF. Physical Activity and fitness effects on cognition and brain health in children and older adults. Kinesiology Review. 2012;1(1):37-45.
- Cheung WC, Shen S, Meadan H. Correlation between motor, socio-emotional skills, and academic performance between young children with and without disabilities. Journal of Developmental & Physical Disabilities. 2022;34(2):211-31.
Dr Tessa Grigg (PhD, Dip Tch Primary and ECE) is an experienced teacher and the Research and Education Manager at GymbaROO-KindyROO.
Bindy Cummings (B.Ed hons) is a teacher, a GymbaROO early childhood neuro-developmental consultant and the co-creator of GymbaROO’s Active Babies Smart Kids series. She has been writing articles for GymbaROO’s First Steps magazine, digital platforms and media for over ten years