by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Coordinator, Prescott Parks and Recreation
Ever consider the history of playgrounds and how they positively contribute to the growth and development of children? Probably not! The history of play and responsibility of playground owners to ensure reduced likelihood of life threatening injuries sustained by children playing, it is crucial to understand the importance of play. This has truly morphed into an entirely different industry than what I personally experienced as a child of the 1980’s. What has not changed is the need to get outside and play.
The concept of play is an inherent trait. Vital to the development of motor skills in young children, overall learning, and socialization, play is not limited to any certain age group. Historically, the activity known as playing (or play time) has been considered integral to children’s overall well-being. So, when does one stop playing? If a person pursues athletics, then playing a sport or multiple sports can last into adulthood. However, not everyone has the physical capability to pursue athletics successfully.
Advances in technology have attributed to a shift from outdoor play to indoor play. Coupled with fewer children outside playing in neighborhoods, overall fears parents face in today’s reality enhances the appeal of indoor play. Unfortunately, according to Psychology Today online, while indoor activity can be enjoyable it does not “promote adequate physical and mental growth”. In fact, researchers have discovered a disorder dubbed “Nature Deficit Disorder”. They have also found that by not playing in the outdoors, children miss the benefits associated with nature such as less stress, lower blood pressure, while developing better motor coordination as well as increased attention span.
In looking at the overall benefits to play, one can argue that it is a necessary component of mental, emotional, and physical health. Fortunately, for residents and visitors to Prescott, there are ample opportunities for both children and adult play activities. The City of Prescott maintains twelve early life playgrounds suitable for ages 2-5 years old and 5-12 years old scattered among parks throughout the City. For adults or families, there are three recreation based lakes that host assorted amenities such as boating, fishing, hiking, bocce ball, horseshoes, volleyball, disc golf, geocaching, and camping. Adults can hike biweekly with an organized group by joining the Trekabout Hiking Club, collaboration between the Yavapai County Community Health Department (YCCHS), The Highlands Center for Natural History (HCNH), and the City of Prescott. Mountain biking is a growing activity for families and Prescott certainly has something to offer for all skill levels. Adults and children both enjoy the Mike Fann Skate Park, a state of the art facility located near Ken Lindley field, designated for skateboarding and BMX bicycling. Pioneer Park is home to the City’s flourishing adult softball leagues which play during the summer months and brand new pickleball courts offer both league and open play seven days a week. Grace Sparkes Activity Center has four tennis courts that are available on a first come first served basis, open during daylight hours.
Perhaps George Bernard Shaw best states it with the well known quote, serving as a wonderful reminder, that “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” For more information visit: www.Prescott-az.gov Recreation & Events