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4 Playground Ideas To Encourage Nervous Toddlers

Playground Activities to Encourage Nervous Preschoolers To Tackle New Challenges on The Playground

Little ones usually have a relaxed and outgoing character, with an inquisitiveness around new people and places. When in the playground, they want to explore fresh and exciting equipment; they are daring but can also be scared and when distressed, they can simply be consoled and recover fast.

nursery outdoor play equipment

Childhood fears are common: things that go bump in the night, unexpected loud noises, strange faces and creepy crawlies bring on a sense of unease in most infants. However some children are very careful with a nervous personality, commonly reacting to unfamiliar circumstances with caution.

They can be fearful and upset when confronted with new play apparatus and other kids in the nursery playground. This can lead to an inclination to hold back or avoid the uncomfortable situations all together.

To grown-ups, nervous and fearful reactions may well seem trivial and unreasonable; it may sometimes feel easier to avoid the source of unease altogether. However research suggests that little ones who have been encouraged to discover and take on new challenges develop strategies for coping with worries. 

Preschool Play Equipment

Therefore, they can regulate their feelings better when confronted with situations that they would have previously dodged.

Also, playing with an extensive variety of equipment and exposure to play conditions outside their comfort zones from an early age, will lessen the possibility of future unfamiliar situations.

It is normal for the playground to evoke a mix of fear and excitement. After all, there are so many new physical challenges to tackle and explore. However, the fear should not be excessive enough to prevent these panicky tots from learning through play.

We have highlighted 4 great ways you can support these children to reap the benefits of play and develop appropriate coping mechanisms for the future...

1. Find The Root Cause of Fear

There is so much happening in the world of toddlers and pre-schoolers! Whilst there are several things that they have already become used to, they might still be jumpy and scared by the unfamiliar.

Now and then, littles ones have unlikely fears based on their restricted understanding of cause and effect. For instance, infants might be overwhelmed in the playground when surrounded by lots of lively kids.


They might have an unrealistic fear of the Water Table as they may dread falling inside, or the slide because they worry about tumbling off the sides and getting hurt.

Although improbable, their understanding is limited. The supervising adults should remain cool and confident and accept the child’s unlikely fears, instead of attempting to talk them out of being scared. Reassuring words such as, “I know you’re scared, but I’ll be here to help you” can help to encourage them.

Even though toddler language is restricted, grown-ups should actively listen and ask basic questions to find the source of fear.

outdoor play resources for toddlers

2. Describe, Expose, Discover

The playground offers a variety of fresh experiences for toddlers, which can be scary! Explaining what to expect in advance, using clear and simple language, can help to blend the familiar with the unfamiliar. A simple, coherent explanation might help a frightened toddler or pre-schooler.

For instance, to stop the fear of falling into the water table you can explain that, "the water table is for toys and ducks, children are too big to fall inside".


Panicky children need time to adjust to unfamiliar play apparatus and for some children, watching other kids play with the source of their fear, from a safe distance can be comforting.

For example, if the little one fears the Pinnacle Hill Climber, afraid that they might fall and scrape their knees, it might be helpful to watch other children safely master the frame without injury. This helps them trade the emotion of fear with excitement and encourages them to try the same.

climbing frames for preschool

The Sensory Seating Circle is ideal for timid and shy children: the seats can be positioned, so they can easily make eye contact with other children. It stimulates group conversations and encourages children to make new friends and play together, rather than alongside each other.

play equipment for preschoolers

3. Break the Challenge Into Small Steps

Breaking the task into little stages can make mastering that big scary challenge somewhat enjoyable and positive.

The very creative and universal Get, Set, Go! Blocks, made from impact-absorbing artificial grass, are ideal for encouraging crawling babies to pull themselves up and balance. For apprehensive children who are already walking, they can help to encourage them to run.

play equipment for toddlers

For children who are already running, they can be positioned to help them to master jumping and hopping. It is important to fight the temptation to overprotect or to prompt little ones. Instead, the Get, Set, Go! blocks provide lots of opportunities for safe practise and familiarisation.

This way, children can build confidence at their own pace and move on to the next challenge.

Play Equipment for Preschoolers

4. Role Play

Playhouses have a great role in helping toddlers and pre-schoolers to release their nervousness and wariness around other children. Role-playing the settings of supermarkets, or teachers and students encourages communication with new unfamiliar faces that enter the group.

Taking on a make-belief character can help children feel empowered and build confidence, so that they are less frightened around strange faces. Playing out their fears, allows children to develop a script, which helps them problem-solve and develop better coping mechanisms.

children interact with one another and role pay shop in the new essentials playhouse

New experiences can prompt both fear and excitement in children. When trying to encourage nervous and shy children to confront their source of fear in the playground, time and practise is needed. Adults play a key role by providing a safety blanket through verbal reassurances.

Whilst it is tempting, try not to remove the nervous children from the source of fear or force them to do more than they are comfortable, too.

a child does a talent show performance for his friends

When helping little ones to confront fears, find out what feels comfortable to them. Sometimes, mixtures of strategies are needed to calm worries and build confidence. These can come in the form of role playing, observing and breaking the challenge down into small steps.

Lastly, it’s important to reward effort no matter how big or small, so that children are likely to try again.

Toddlers and Preschoolers love to explore, so why not give your toddlers fun and exciting play equipment to develop appropriate coping mechanisms for the future. If you're interested in new and exciting Nursery Play EquipmentContact Us to arrange a free consultation.

Playground seating for toddlers