There is no greater joy than seeing kids in their element playing with one another and exploring a play space. But what happens when play space is not designed for everyone? Not every child is the same. As educators, city councils, and parents, it is important to remember this when creating developmental elements. We are here to help you do just that.
Here are 4 important things to keep in mind when designing a space for children of all abilities that not only makes a playground accessible but also inclusive.
1. Evaluate your Space/Playground
Take a moment and look at your space or current playground to understand the space you are working with. Once you have looked at the space take a moment to ask yourself some questions. Can anyone use the space, even those in a wheelchair? Is there something to do on all sides? Are there rest areas and areas protected from the sun? These questions are designed to help you in the next step of determining your needs.
2. Determine your Needs
Every community is different, but there are some essential considerations when designing a space that is inclusive for everyone. You will want to make sure there are sensory actives and a space for children that might feel overstimulated at times and need a space to relax. Make sure the space is accessible to wheelchairs or children with limited mobility. This means that there should be ramps or safety surfaces such as rubber tiles or pour-in-place that are easy to maneuver on. Lastly, you want a space that invites socialization so benches or inclusive play activities such as tic-tac-toe are a great way to get everyone socializing together.
3. Pick the Equipment
Have a variety of play equipment in the space that is at ground-level with a mix of elevated play that is also accessible by a transfer station or ramp. The mix-in-play components give children the chance to move around the space and experience more than just what is in their reach. This also brings inclusivity since everyone can interact in the same space as their friends. For example, if your playground has swings make sure at least one of them is wheelchair friendly, or instead of doing a standard playground make a custom ramp entry point. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 50% of the play components on an accessible route.
4. Ensure a Safe Environment
Lastly, you want to make sure that the playground is safe for everyone. This means having handrails on both sides of platforms, and a ramp to make sure that everyone can access the play space. Maybe even consider switching out a platform or climber on the playground to also have a ramp. Lastly, make sure items are at varying heights and locations on the playground. This allows kids of all abilities to interact with components of the playground at a level or in an area they are comfortable with.
By using these 4 tips in designing your space it will become easy to plan and envision Creating an inclusive playground may at first seem like a challenge or overwhelming, but it truly just takes some additional planning. If you are thinking about starting one of these projects or need help finding a way to transform your current space into one that is more inclusive and accessible, please reach out to the playground team at Play with a Purpose through email at firstname.lastname@example.org and our team would be happy to help!