Each pirate ship is divided into four smaller zones. This allows several groups of children to play simultaneously without disturbing each other. The zones have different play activities that all support children’s natural development.

Play zone: Bow

Find your way into the secret hold, look out for land with the movable telescope, heave up the anchor, or balance on the pirate ship’s figurehead. The pirate ship’s bow will test children’s gross and fine motor skills, as well as their balance.

Good balance and motor skills give children the courage to explore everything else the body can do, such as running, hopping and jumping. It also gives them the confidence to engage in play with other children, which strengthens their social relations. During play, children test and overcome their own boundaries, and it also supports their psychological development while developing courage and self-esteem.

Having a good sense of balance also helps the eyes to focus when learning to read. Or when children are learning to negotiate the traffic.

When a child balances and coordinates his movements, it trains the cerebellum. This part of the brain tells us which muscles to use, for example to lift a box, write with a pencil or climb stairs. It is an ability that we use hundreds of times each day, and which therefore needs to be mastered.

Play zone: Midship

The midship can be accessed, for example, via the wobbly plank, through the rubber hatches in the bow or from the cabin. The midship has several moving parts: the ship’s wheel, bell, compass and diamonds as well as the concealed rubber hatches for keeping an eye on the prisoners. The wheel is a particular children’s favourite in the midship.

All the moving parts help to stimulate fine motor skills, which are a vital aspect of child development. Fine motor skills enable us to perform small, precise movements, for example with our hands, eyes, mouth and feet. These skills are also used to hold and control tools, such as when learning to draw or write.

The brain’s help centre for language and the area governing right-hand fine motor skills lie right next to each other. Consequently, linguistic development is positively influenced when you stimulate right-hand fine motor skills.

Play zone: Aft deck

You climb up the steps to the lower aft deck, where you can ring the bell, keep an eye on the treasure island through the telescope mounted on the lookout barrel, or crawl down into the Captain’s cabin. The climbing wall panel and the large climbing net provide access to the upper aft deck, where the ship can be steered with the ship’s wheel. It is also from the upper aft deck that it is possible to attach suspension bridges and tube slides onto the pirate ship.

The large climbing net from the upper aft deck is fun, but also very challenging for both gross motor skills, balance and cross-body movements. When children perform cross-body movements, it stimulates neural activity between both sides of the brain. And it is this interaction which is brought into play when learning to read, where the left side of the brain sees every single letter, while the right side composes the letters to form words and meanings.

Playing pirates is also good training for the frontal lobe of the brain. While the child is devising a strategy for not getting caught or is trying to act out the game, the frontal lobe is collecting and processing all the impulses from the body and brain, which are then used to execute the desired action – for example run away or hide. In fact, the ability to concentrate is also placed in the frontal lobe, and is therefore also trained while playing on the ship.

Play zone: Cabin

The treasure map, compass, a hidden chest, dungeon, the underwater dome and the galley with the free-roaming crab set the scene for playing in the Captain’s cabin. The large windows also ensure that adults can keep an eye on everything without disturbing the play activity. All the play activities in the Captain’s cabin help to trigger the children’s imagination and role-play.

Playing with other children allows the child to train his or her social skills. It is here the child learns to communicate his thoughts and feelings. This is important so that they learn to express themselves and say no, and develop the ability to understand and empathise with others. At the same time, the child also learns many different skills, for example how to argue, compromise, negotiate and to resolve conflicts.

Children also experiment with role-play in a figurative sense, i.e. by being the funny one, the sweet one, the silly one, or the evil pirate. Through role-play, children process their experiences and emotions. In fact, it is healthy to play ‘the evil pirate’. When children play, they know it is fun and games, but it helps them to unburden their feelings, for example anger or fear. Like other role-play, it can give children the sense of mastering something and building self-confidence.

Playing on the pirate’s ship also trains their sense of space. Spatial intelligence lies in the right hemisphere of the brain, and is important when a child is learning to assess the size of objects and their relative positions to one another. It also comes into play later when the child is learning the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Interested in Pirates?

Read more about the Pirates series on our theme page.