As school communities become more diverse, you may be looking for new ways to engage students in creative and imaginative play. And one of the best places to support this type of play is on the playground. Recess is often a child’s favorite time of day, as it’s when they’re able to release energy, socialize with classmates and explore the world around them.
But what if your school playground isn’t meeting the needs of your students? Traditional playgrounds tend to limit kids with disabilities, which can be discouraging for these kids and their peers. Fortunately, there are ways to make your school playground more inclusive without having to redesign the entire space.
Make the Playground Accessible
Accessibility ensures that all students can navigate the playground and access its features. This allows all kids to stay connected and play together. Here are some of the ways that you can improve accessibility at your school playground:
- Widen paths and walkways. This way, children with mobility devices like wheelchairs or walkers can move about with ease.
- Even surfaces. Uneven surfaces are a hazard for everyone, particularly children with special needs. Make sure your surface is even and that you choose a safe, uniform surfacing material like rubber tiles or poured-in-place rubber (PIP).
- Proximity to school. If you are building a new playground, be sure to pick a spot that’s close to the school building. This gives students and teachers quick access to the playground.
Enhance Ground-Level Play
Many playgrounds feature tall jungle gyms and climbing structures, allowing kids to use their motor skills and have fun at the top level. However, kids with disabilities may not be able to climb stairs and ladders. Fortunately, you can allow kids to have just as much fun on the lower level by investing in more ground-level play opportunities.
Fixed playground equipment ideas include swings, spinners, gliders and rockers. You can also set out loose equipment like hula hoops, chalk, blocks or jump ropes. Activity panels installed at various heights are also plenty of fun, as is sensory play like outdoor musical instruments or water play.
Incorporate More Inclusive Equipment
Aside from ground-level play, you can also include more inclusive playground equipment into your playground design, especially if the space allows. These days, there is plenty of playground equipment that is accessible for all abilities even those using mobility devices, such as extra wide ramps for play structures, inclusive swings, accessible whirls (like a merry-go-round) and accessible sand diggers.
Sensory playground equipment can also double up as being inclusive. Whether it’s sand, water or textured activity panels, kids can have fun at the surface level while learning through exploration, curiosity and problem solving. And, it’s easy to add a standing sandbox or water table to bring sensory play to an existing playground.
Create Quiet Spaces
While playgrounds generally involve many kids running around at once, some children prefer a different type of play. For those who may become overstimulated with all the noise or activity going on, offer quiet spaces throughout your playground design. These spaces provide kids with a small escape where they can relax and collect themselves.
Even kids who enjoy running around and playing can benefit from quiet spaces. Everyone has days where they prefer to be alone, and these small escapes will give them this option within a safe context. It can be as simple as a bench with a garden or a small corner or pod.
Not all children run to the playground equipment right off the bat. Some children need a space towards the entrance of the playground to sit and observe first, and then go and join the fun. Shaded benches along with a few activity panels or outdoor musical instruments are perfect for this and create a welcoming space for children who are more shy or are on the spectrum and prefer to ease into the activities.
These are just a few of the ways that you can make your existing school playground more inclusive and inviting for students! Get in touch with Cunningham Recreation to explore our options for inclusive playground equipment.