What Is an Inclusive Playground?

For young children, playing with friends is more than just a fun activity. Not only can play help children to be physically active, but it can also help them to regulate emotions, think critically, and learn to interact with their peers.

While all kids should be able to play on their school’s playground, or at the local park, many are unable to do so because of barriers like mulch, stairs, and a lack of inclusive and accessible playground equipment. As a result, many children with disabilities are unable to play alongside their peers.

What Makes a Playground Inclusive?

Accessible playgrounds should be fun and welcoming places for children of different ages, play styles, skill levels, and abilities. Much like designing an accessible home, there are many factors to consider to make a playground inclusive of children with disabilities.

Before deciding on inclusive playground equipment, you'll want to consider two major factors to ensure all children have equal access to that equipment. First, the ground should be level throughout. Instead of using traditional wood chips or playground mulch, consider pour-in-place rubber. This will provide a flat, slip-resistant surface for children with mobility disabilities. Second, playscapes can be built with ramps instead of stairs so all children can access the play space.

What is Inclusive Playground Equipment?

Inclusive playground equipment should benefit various senses and skills. Equipment that serves auditory senses, touch, movement, balance, and visuals can be used by children with and without disabilities, so that they can play together. Elements of an inclusive playground include:

1. Auditory Playground Equipment

Inclusive playground equipment, such as musical instruments can be utilized by all children but may be especially beneficial to those who are visually impaired or neurodivergent, as these individuals may seek out auditory equipment to both play and regulate their sensory needs.

While some children like to make lots of noise during play, others may be content with peace and quiet. In fact, for those with sensory processing disabilities, some sensory input, like sound, may become overstimulating. For these children, a quiet area within the playground may be the perfect place to play. These areas of a playground serve distinct purposes and should be placed so they don't counteract each other.

2. Visual Playground Equipment

Throughout your playground, you should include visually stimulating and fun colors and shapes. But remember that like sound, too much color and visual busyness can overwhelm some children. As with sound, you should include a visual "quiet" place, where kids can go when overwhelmed by visual stimuli.

3. Tactile Playground Equipment

Try to provide a variety of surfaces to touch. Be careful not to let these surfaces make it difficult for children with disabilities to use the playground. For example, a sandpit shouldn't restrict wheelchair access to the rest of the playground. Instead, try an Interactive activity panel, so children with mobility aids can engage in tactile play while still being able to navigate the playground.

4. Vestibular Playground Equipment

Vestibular playground equipment allows children to experiment with balance, gravity, and movement. To maintain an inclusive playground, consider adding equipment like adaptive swings, roller slides, and wheelchair accessible merry-go-rounds, so all children can play together.

What are the Benefits of Inclusive Playgrounds?

There are many benefits to inclusive playgrounds. Most importantly, these spaces allow children to play together.

An inclusive playground can help disabled children to work on skills that may be impacted by their disability. Through play, these children can learn social and emotional regulation skills, and take part in physical activity or physical therapy.

Inclusive spaces can also help children without disabilities, as they're encouraged to interact with and learn from their disabled peers. This can help children to understand that differences, like disability, are a normal part of everyday life.

Inclusive Activities for Children with Disabilities

An inclusive playground is a great place for children to play, but if you don't have an inclusive playground near you, don't worry. There are plenty of other inclusive activities you can take part in. Check out our related articles below to find an activity that is right for you.

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