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Inclusive Playgrounds 101: Be Active


Active Play for All

This is the sixth blog article in a seven-part series on inclusive playground design. Be sure to read parts one, two, three, four and five!

Physical development is one of the five important development domains to consider when designing an inclusive playground. During active play, children can enhance their gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the coordination of large muscle groups, such as those in the legs, and children development these types of skills by walking, climbing and running and through more complex movements like biking, dancing and swinging.

Fine motor skills involve the use of smaller muscle groups, such as those in the fingers or tongue. These skills develop as children grasp and manipulate objects in addition to learning hand-eye coordination and speech.

Put simply, motor skills allow children to make purposeful movements and learn the physical characteristics of self and the environment. Playgrounds encourage the development of gross and motor skills by providing opportunities for active play.

An inclusive playground design that addresses the physical development of children may include accessible surfacing, pathways for wheeled-toy play, interactive panels, climbers, swings, slides and other activities along graduated levels of challenge. To ensure everyone can enjoy the play space and be active to the greatest extent possible, we consider three specific elements in the design of an inclusive playground:

Provide accommodations with additional support and help children maintain neutral body positions during movement experiences.

Be mindful that many children need additional trunk support when engaging in play activities. Play products with molded seats or high backs provide additional trunk support for children who are playing on whirls, swings or other motion-oriented products. Side rails also help children maintain an upright position during play.

Molded seats with a high back make this zip track ride more inclusive for children of all abilities

Include equitable alternatives to common play experiences.

All children love to move, climb and explore a playground, but some children may be limited by an injury or disability. When designing an inclusive playground, make sure everyone can share in the experience and benefits of physical activity. Consider activities that accommodate as many children as possible regardless of age or ability. For example, a roller table is a freestanding activity that helps develop upper body strength as children pull themselves along the rollers. Therapeutic rings at an accessible height offer an advanced upper body activity and can accommodate a wider range of people.

A roller table is an inclusive activity that promotes upper body strength in children of all abilities

Incorporate balanced play experiences that promote social inclusion and encourage cooperation.

Cooperative play activities reinforce positive interactions between children as they work together to create an action or engage in an activity. Some examples include SeeSaws, rocking events and objects that require children to turn or rotate an item together. Provide accessible versions of these activities so everyone can join in the fun and participate together.

Activities like the Rock N Raft promote cooperative, social play for everyone

In summary, an inclusive playground design encourages physical activity for all children and provides thoughtful alternatives and accessible options to accommodate children who may have an injury or disability. Through this type of design, you can create a fun and active play environment where children and families can “Be Active” together and for longer periods of time.

To learn more about the Seven Principles of Inclusive Playground Design®, request a copy of the complete Me2® guidebook or contact your local GameTime representative to explore inclusive play options for your community.