An Inclusive Playground is a Smart Playground
We often get asked, “How can I make sure an inclusive playground is beneficial for everyone?”
It’s an important question to consider. In the past, some playgrounds were designed to meet the needs of people with a specific disability. The playground was made “accessible” by adding a few play activities for children and families with special needs. Yet, when you considered the playground as a whole, it was largely inaccessible and didn’t encourage children of all ages and abilities to play together. Neither of these approaches benefit the whole child or the entire community.
This example brings us to the third principle listed in our guidebook, Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design – “Be Smart.” An inclusive playground that is designed to be smart addresses the needs of all children, regardless of ability. The play area should be simple and intuitive, making it easy for children to understand where and how to play. Incorporating various colors, textures, patterns or plantings can help visually organize the environment, and adding multi-sensory activities that provide auditory, tactile or visual features can encourage positive play behaviors and help children understand the cause-and-effect relationship.
Lastly, it’s important to design an inclusive playground so that play areas are clearly defined. Grouping related or similar activities together helps children know what to expect in that particular play area. Swings, slide exits or spinning activities should be arranged to avoid accidents or user conflict. Passive play areas, such as play houses and a seat and table, can be grouped near one another to enhance the overall play experience.
The main takeaway of the “Be Smart” principle is this: Organize. Organize the play space in such a way that children know where and how to engage in play. A confusing or complex play space inhibits children from enjoying play and realizing the benefits of inclusive play, but a well-defined play space builds confidence, promotes social and cooperative play and engages every member of the community.