Without question, physical activity and outdoor time are beneficial to children. Playgrounds are one of the most enticing ways to keep children entertained and having fun while outdoors. However, playgrounds should also make sure that all children have equal play opportunities, including those with liabilities or physical limitations. Therefore, inclusive playground equipment is a necessity. Are you considering adding inclusive playground equipment to your outdoor play area? Take a look at five reasons why this change is so important.
1. Includes Children of All Abilities
In the United States, around 85 of 1,000 individuals between 3 and 21 years of that have some type of disability. While only one in these 85 will have a physical disability:
- 41.5 will have cognitive issues
- 17 will have communication challenges
- 11 will have social/emotional challenges
- 11 will have a chronic health impairment
- 2 will have multiple disabilities
- 1.5 will have sensory disabilities
This goes to show just how many children may not always have access to playground equipment they can enjoy fully or safely. Inclusive playground equipment ensures both the social inclusion and physical inclusion of children with different types of disabilities. Play and Park has partnered with experts from Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities to make sure children of all abilities have access to meaningful play opportunities.
2. Adds A Unique Experience to the Playground
Inclusive playground equipment creates a more versatile atmosphere for children to enjoy, even those who have certain limitations. Unlike the standard swings and slides that make it into just about any playground, inclusive equipment often encourages children to play or interact with the equipment in unique ways. This gives the area a unique appearance but also makes it more entertaining and enjoyable for all children.
For example, a Curved Chime allows children to make musical sounds with touch, which offers a developmentally appropriate activity involving inclusive music. Likewise, something like Exploration Stations offer new ways to explore and discover through movement, unique shapes, and textures.
3. Fosters New Relationships
Children with disabilities can face barriers in their everyday lives when it comes to socialization. Unfortunately, children with disabilities may not be in the same classes as their peers or get to take part in the activities everyone else is doing. Yet, socialization and building relationships can be especially important for emotional well-being. Research shows socialization can be important for children with different abilities because:
- It helps the child learn to adapt to social conditions and situations
- It helps the child be more socially aware
- It helps the child see their value in a social setting
- It helps the child feel equal to other people in social settings
Embracing inclusive playgrounds within communities or in outdoor settings at schools and other facilities supports social acceptance. In other words, these playgrounds offer an opportunity to children who may not always have the same opportunities to socialize and build relationships as other children. They get to play together and socialize in an environment that helps to eradicate the usual barriers.
4. Supports the Needs of the Whole Child
Inclusive playgrounds support the needs of the whole child, which means the equipment offers developmental and inclusive benefits across the full spectrum. Five specific areas are supported with playground equipment designed to meet the needs of children with different abilities.
Inclusive equipment is specifically designed to encourage physical play safely. For example, something like Sensory Summit Climbers offer handholds and footholds and a wide support base. Therefore, a child with usual difficulty navigating during play due to low strength or coordination can feel more confident about playing independently. Likewise, the equipment has enough space to accommodate children using mobility devices.
Inclusive playground equipment encourages face-to-face or side-by-side play, which can motivate social interactions on the playground. Likewise, the equipment is typically designed to allow caregivers to comfortably assist children and reach them when they need a little help. Also, features like extra hand or footholds support emotional security for children who may be apprehensive about play.
Inclusive equipment can be designed to support the full range of sensory play, including tactile, visual, and auditory activities. Children with certain developmental disabilities like autism or visual challenges gain an opportunity to interact and play when this could otherwise be obsolete. This may mean a piece of equipment has interesting shapes and colors, makes music or sound, and has a unique texture that is stimulating to touch and feel.
Well-designed inclusive playground equipment may seem to be all about fun, but most pieces also encourage children to experiment, explore, and learn. The child can gain a new understanding of how different actions impact their senses or deliver a positive outcome.
Some inclusive play equipment supports children who may not communicate like everyone else. For example, a piece of equipment with auditory components like Harmony Music pieces allows a child to make sounds and noises, which can be a form of communicative interaction with other children. Likewise, the interaction with other children supports the potential to develop comprehension or vocabulary skills.
5. Shines a Spotlight on Community Values
When you take the time to align the outdoor play environment with best practices based on research, this shines a spotlight on community values. These playgrounds stand as proof that the community stakeholders are considerate enough to be mindful of all people, regardless of their limitations or abilities. By making sure that your playground equipment is accessible to children with all types of abilities, you become an example to model after, which can also spread awareness within the community.
Your inclusive playground can even be designated as a National Demonstration Site. This designation means your site serves in a network of exemplary sites that addresses the local needs of all children but also achieves the goals of the site’s stakeholders. As a national model, your playground can gain national awareness and receive signs of recognition to display in the area.
Design Your Inclusive Playground with Play and Park
Play and Park believes that play is essential for people with all levels of abilities. Therefore, our structures are specifically designed to create play environments that as many people as possible can enjoy. We offer a full collection of inclusive playground equipment that meets all seven principles of inclusive playground design: Be Fair, Included, Smart, Independent, Safe, Active, and Comfortable.