Outdoor play is beneficial for all children. It allows them to learn from nature and interact with their environment. Not only is it important for their physical health and development, but by enabling children, young people and adults to interact together, a play area can truly unite a community.
Of course, some children find it easier to engage with play areas than others. Consider a wheelchair user when faced with a traditional play park – or think about how a busy, brightly coloured and noisy space must feel for a child with Autism.
It can be a daunting task to create a play space design from scratch or updating an existing area, particularly when thinking about inclusion as there are so many different abilities and needs to consider. That is why, in partnership with KIDS the Disabled Children’s Charity, we created PiPA; a checklist of items to consider when planning new or updating existing play spaces with the purpose of mapping out all inclusive play areas on our PiPAMAP which is also listed on SENDirect.
But if you’re looking for our top tips this is where we would start:
- Clear route through the playground. Ideally there should be 2 or more routes so there is interest in moving around the space.
- A variety of accessible high points, these can be landscaped mounds, decks and climbing units.
- Incorporating sensory play, this is the most accessible type of play for everyone and is often ignored in play space design. Think about offering visual, sound and tactile opportunities.
- Ensure at least one of your moving items is highly accessible, the most accessible and inclusive item available on the market is a ground flush roundabout like our Wheelspin
- Locating dynamic pieces in easy reach of entrance points and access routes.
- Where children may not be able to access a challenging climbing unit, ensure they can get close, ideally with a route that allows them to be in the heart of the action if they so choose.
- For a site to be truly inclusive it still needs to provide challenge to those children who require it!
- Water and Sand offer the most fantastic play experiences, where possible use! A hardstanding access point to a sand space increases inclusion
- Sensory experiences are vital. All children love sound, touch, smell and visual stimulation.
- Some quiet areas that have gentle sensory experiences benefit young children or children who need time out away from high tempo action