Playgrounds are more than just a place to play — they’re also a place for learning and development, helping kids gain valuable skills and experiences that help them as they grow older. Children can learn essential social and motor skills while having fun with the various structures and equipment that make up a playground.
their abilities. For those planning to build playgrounds, it’s important to understand what inclusive play means and why it matters. Below, learn more about inclusive play and inclusive playgrounds and how you might create a play space that works for all kids.
The Concept of Inclusive Play
The meaning of inclusive play refers to creating a diverse play environment that offers equipment and activity options for all children. Many traditional play spaces feature play equipment that only certain children can use, meaning some children are left out of the experience. Comparatively, inclusive play spaces offer various types of equipment that support kids of all mental and physical abilities.
What Is an Inclusive Playground?
An inclusive playground allows children and families of all abilities to play, develop, learn and grow together. Independent and active play benefits children’s growth, emotional well-being and social skills. Inclusive playgrounds foster inclusive play and give every child the same opportunities for active and independent playtime, no matter their abilities.
Inclusive playgrounds also create a sense of community. These inclusive play opportunities help children learn how to respect others, understand valuable teamwork skills and be more open to new experiences. When children can meet and play with fellow children in different ways, they learn valuable lessons that help them throughout life.
There are five key skills that an inclusive playground should be able to provide for a child’s development without excluding anyone based on their abilities and needs.
Sensory skills: Using different stimuli, a playground can help kids grow their visual, auditory, tactile, balance and muscle-related skills. Sensory skills help children explore the world around them and are tied to the development of other skills. Textures, varying colors and movement-based playground equipment are examples of things a playground can make use of to develop some of these sensory skills.
Strength: There are many ways children can improve their strength. Playgrounds can allow children to improve their upper body, core body and lower body strength through several activities. Inclusive playgrounds can allow kids of all abilities to build their strength in different ways.
Motor skills: Motor skills are functions that involve using specific movements of muscles to perform tasks. Motor skills can be categorized into fine motor skills, agility, coordination, balance, endurance and motor planning. An inclusive playground should stimulate this type of growth for every child.
Social skills: Interactions between children on the playground build their verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Playground equipment that encourages these interactions is a must for any inclusive playground. Allowing kids to invent scenarios improves their imaginations, building useful life skills and creativity. Cooperation is another important social skill that inclusive playgrounds facilitate through equipment that allows children to work together, like swings.
Cognition: Problem-solving, language, literacy and strategic planning are cognitive skills that can be engaged and developed through playground equipment and independent play. Finding and developing ways to play builds all three of these important cognitive skills and can easily be facilitated by inclusive playgrounds with various activities.
Designing a play area with inclusion at the forefront can make all the difference in a child’s life, providing them with numerous opportunities to learn and grow.
Inclusive Playground Equipment
Explore various kinds of inclusive playground equipment that can facilitate the development of these skills and concepts.
Playground surfaces: An inclusive playground features safe surfacing. Pour-in-place surfaces and rubber are popular playground surfacing options that are safe, easy for everyone to use and wheelchair friendly.
Interactive panels: Interactive panels are great ways for kids to develop sensory, motor and cognitive skills. Panels with moveable and interactive parts are useable for every child and engage them in their own unique ways.
Toddler equipment: Letting toddlers explore accessible play spaces lets them develop their imaginations, interact with other toddlers and build their skills through safe independent play. There are several toddler-friendly options playground designers can include in their inclusive playgrounds.
Ramps: Ramps are a fun and easy-to-use alternative to steps. This inclusive addition to your playground allows anyone to join the fun and feel included while they explore and interact with playground structures.
Custom designs: A customized playground can facilitate imagination, cognition and sensory development as children play in settings with vibrant colors, unique designs and fun themes.
Tunnels and tubes: Tunnels and tubes that are made wide enough can be mobility-device accessible. Sensory tubes are exciting places to explore and can incorporate tactile play. They can also feature stimuli engaging visuals for imaginative play and the development of sensory skills.
Signage: Use signage to identify mobility-device-accessible zones, restrooms and facilities. Make these signs prominent, so there’s no confusion about where everything is located.
Variety: To keep a playground inclusive and engaging, use a mix of equipment. A variety of available equipment gives children more opportunities to create their own play plans and navigate play as they see fit.
Ultimately, the goal of inclusive playgrounds is to create as many valuable play experiences as possible for every child. As a result, children can build necessary skills, like those listed above, and form meaningful relationships with their playmates.
Playworx Can Build Your Dreams
If you can dream it, Playworx can build it. Through our selection of playground equipment and products, we provide fun that lasts and gives everyone an engaging and safe environment to play and grow in.