Recess and play are an important part of childhood development. When children are playing, they are able to progress language, symbolic thinking, social skills, and motor skills. Children who engage in free play are healthier and have higher self-esteem. These affects can be seen in all children, so it is important that play structures accommodate children of all abilities and developmental levels. This is where inclusive playgrounds come in. Inclusive playgrounds allow all children to engage and play so everyone can be included in the fun.
What is an Inclusive Playground?
An inclusive playground is about more than wheelchair ramps, although those are important. A wide range of design elements should be included in a play space so all children can interact the structures and other children. Things to keep in mind when building an inclusive playground include:
Access: Can any child or parent access this space regardless of their ability? Including ramps and rails as necessary or using ground level play events.
Engaging: Is the playground engaging, considering factors such as color, sound, texture, movement, and versatility?
Comfort: Does the play space have a good mix of active and quiet play areas? Quieter rest areas can be helpful for children who may be over stimulated in crowds.
Cognitive Development: Activities such as swinging, sliding, climbing, spinning, and rocking have both physical and cognitive benefits. Additionally, number or alphabet boards are a fun way to incorporate learning into play.
If you are in the process of planning a new playground or renovating an existing play space, you can start by asking a big-picture question: How will this play space encourage children of all abilities to interact and share play time together?
The Benefits of Inclusive Play
Playgrounds are a great place for children to engage with peers and make friends. One of the struggles families with disabilities face is fewer places to meet and be part of the community. According to a study on physical and developmental disabilities, 53% of kids with disabilities spent less than two hours a week with their peers outside of class. By making playgrounds inclusive it solves this problem because children of all abilities can play together.
Parks and playground equipment shouldn’t limit or segregate children. It should be a place for children to come together and learn from each other. Inclusive playgrounds encourage play, which leads to a mutual understanding, friendships, and a true feeling of community.