Kids That Hit Playground Do Better When They Hit The Books

natural play

New study shows a connection between physical activity and academic success

A study from the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam recently published in The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine confirms that the more exercise a child gets, the more success he or she has in the classroom. It examined 14 cases—ten of which were evaluated using an observational methodology and four using methods of intervention.

For the observational portion of the study, researchers interviewed a group of youngsters, along with their parents and teachers, about the students’ level of physical activity. Researchers then tracked the group’s academic progress for a period of time. The remaining four cases, evaluated through intervention, assessed whether students who were given more time for physical activity performed better on tests. Overall, the data suggested that students who spent more time engaged in outdoor play did better in school and tended to score higher on tests.

With such a clear link between exercise and performance, encouraging outdoor play is a must, but how can teachers and parents get their youngsters off the sofa and onto the jungle gym?

Steve King, FASLA, Landscape Architect and Chairman of Landscape Structures, suggests these tips to make playground areas more appealing:

Consider the natural environment. Rather than leveling and clearing the site completely, integrate the existing foliage, shrubbery or other existing elements into the plans. This adds to the design’s aesthetic while increasing the play area.

Position the play area near natural elements. Children tend to view a site’s natural surroundings as a part of the playground itself. So, place play structures with this in mind. Include the tree-scape and natural paths in the design, and use them to expand the physical play structures.

Be deliberate. Each play structure installed at the site should serve a specific purpose and should seamlessly tie into the design of the space.

King also says that adding a few natural elements into the mix can make a big difference. The more attractive and comfortable a playground is for children and their families, the more time they’ll spend there, he says.

Contact your General Recreation Sales Consultant to discuss the possibility of incorporating natural elements into your schools playground equipment at 800-726-4793 or email us at

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