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Inclusive Playgrounds 101: Be Independent

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This is the fourth blog article in a seven-part series on inclusive playground design. Be sure to catch up on parts one, two and three!

Independence: It’s something children love to express! Notably, it’s an important milestone in their overall development. It stands to reason that an inclusive playground should be a place where people of all abilities can access play as independently as possible.

That brings us to Principle 4 of the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design® - Be Independent.


The first step in helping children experience independent play is giving them a clear direction. Instructional and directional signage can help children navigate a play area and understand where to go next. Signs, panels with words, pictures and symbols can assist children in finding a preferred activity, and they also help them communicate with friends and family. The next important step is making sure a play space is barrier free, and that children have accessible routes of travel throughout a place area. Use ADA-compliant surfacing and provide ramped access to elevated play activities to support both physical access and social interaction between users.

ADA-compliant surfacing, ramps and transfer systems make it possible for everyone to explore the play area.

Providing a sensory-rich environment is another way to encourage children to explore a play area independently. Find ways to include activities that engage children’s auditory, visual and tactile senses. Musical instruments and sensory panels encourage children to interact with each other and play together. Play activities such as swinging, rocking and spinning offer vestibular (balance and movement) and proprioceptive (motor planning) benefits – plus, they are just fun!

Sensory Spinning Seat encourages cooperative play and engages the vestibular senses.

Finally, consider incorporating products like slide transfers and adapted climbers, which promote independent play for children of all abilities. Play panels that include adaptive switch technology are ideal for people with limited gross and fine motor skills. These types of products allow people of all abilities to enjoy, manipulate and interact with fun play activities designed to facilitate active participation.Panels and activities that provide adaptive switch input assist in the play experience for people with limited mobility.The main takeaway is this: You can support a child’s self-determination and independence by designing a playground that removes barriers and communicates what to expect, what to do and how to participate in play. A play environment like this builds confidence and fosters positive self-esteem. This is a place where everyone can be independent.

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