Playgrounds offer more for today’s youth than solely entertainment. The positive impact of free, creative, active play on children’s mental and physical development is backed by research. In this sense, traditional playgrounds are great to have throughout our communities, neighborhoods, churches and schools – but what about the kids that can’t/won’t use them?
A very common problem with traditional, non-inclusive playgrounds is that ALL children cannot use them. Kids with special needs, specifically ones who require some sort of equipment to help with mobility, are not always able to maneuver the playground and often have to sit back and watch the other kids have fun.
Unfortunately, tearing down your playground to build a new, inclusive playground is not always in the budget; but there are ways to update your playground to make it more accessible by all.
Here are a few ways you can update a playground to make it more inclusive:
Start where it counts. You can upgrade every single part of the play structure, but if the path to the play structure is not accessible, then it will all be for naught. Make sure your playground has a handicap-accessible path leading to the play equipment area – wide walkways, ramps instead of stairs, etc.
Highlight your strengths. Analyze your playground and figure out what aspects of it are being used the most (and least). What’s already working and what needs improvement? Based on your findings, you can figure out what area would benefit from an upgrade and make that area your main focus.
Keep it simple. The simplest upgrades can make a playground more accessible. One of the main aspects of a playground is the surfacing. The rubber mulch used for most playgrounds is not necessarily easy to maneuver for a child using a mobility device. Upgrade the surfacing to something solid and smooth, like Playsafer Rubber Bond or Poured-in-Place surfacing.
Splurge on key pieces. Adding a few key pieces that will incorporate inclusive play will help pull it all together; things like adding an Avalanche Inclusive Slide so that children can access it without having to use the stairs. Sensory-stimulation pieces are another great addition for children who rely heavily on sight, sound and/or touch – like a water and sand table or musical instruments.
Modernize with technology. Kids today are obsessed with digital gameplay. A great way to incorporate that into outdoor play is with Biba Ventures. Biba games work by installing augmented-reality markers around your playground. The kids then download the free Biba game app of their choice and begin playing. This allows kids to play digital games while still getting the benefits of active, outdoor play. There is a Biba game app created to work exclusively with inclusive playground designs – Biba Butterfly Bounty – so all kids can enjoy playing Biba!
At Park Place Recreation, we are passionate about inclusive play. All children deserve the opportunity to have fun on the playground for both the developmental values as well as the sheer enjoyment.
If you have questions about inclusive playgrounds, or if you’d like to find out more about inclusive play equipment options, please contact us to speak with one of our playground experts today. We’d love to talk with you about your playground needs.