Top 10 Playground Activities for Kids With Wheelchairs

Kids of all ability levels need to play to develop crucial lifelong skills, get the exercise they need and build relationships. In the United States, thousands of children under the age of 15 use wheelchairs. Just like their peers without disabilities, children who use wheelchairs benefit from playground activities and having fun with their friends. An accessible and inclusive playground allows children with limited mobility to have equal amounts of fun, side-by-side with their peers, which is vital for their overall well-being.

There are plenty of physical activities for children using wheelchairs and many of them can be enjoyed on the playground. In this guide, we’ll explore some exciting and beneficial games and playground activities suitable for children with wheelchairs or living with other disabilities and discuss why it is critical to embrace inclusivity.

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Why Accessibility on the Playground Is Important

An accessible and inclusive playground offers a variety of equipment and challenge levels, so children of all abilities can play, develop and grow. Accessible playgrounds feature wheelchair-friendly access routes, so kids can reach the play area with ease. Accessibility is a critical component in playgrounds for the following reasons:

  • All new playgrounds must be ADA compliant: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), newly designed or constructed play areas must be accessible. The ADA aims to eliminate discrimination and protect the rights of all children. Therefore, creating an ADA-compliant playground benefits the kids in your community and ensures you’re in line with the law.
  • Play is a vital part of development: Play is an essential component of childhood development for all kids, whether they use a wheelchair or not. At the playground, kids can use equipment that helps them develop and improve hand-eye coordination, motor skills, balance and physical strength. It also promotes the development of social skills as kids freely interact with each other, learn to take turns and practice teamwork skills.
  • Inclusive play encourages tolerance: As kids play, they learn to appreciate and accept each other despite their differences and similarities. As a result, all kids will be seen as equal members of society who can contribute their skills and talents, regardless of their ability levels. Inclusion replaces exclusion, not just at the playground but in all contexts.
  • Playing is a childhood right: All kids crave climbing, swinging, sliding, interacting with others and playing make-believe. No child should be excluded from fulfilling these basic childhood needs. Accessible playgrounds ensure every kid gets to be a kid in a stimulating and comfortable environment.
  • All kids need exercise: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with disabilities are at higher risk of developing depression and are more likely to be less physically active. Many conditions resulting from a lack of exercise are preventable. Playing at the playground is one way children with wheelchairs can improve their mental and physical health and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and mental health issues.

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Top Games and Activities for Children With Wheelchairs

Kids who use wheelchairs can enjoy many of the same outdoor games that their peers can play with a few modifications. For example, a lot of outdoor play activities can be enjoyed sitting down for children with disabilities rather than standing up or with the assistance of a peer.

No matter what, it helps if caregivers plan inclusive play activities so they can make the necessary adjustments and ensure the activities are both challenging and fun.

1. Swinging

Swinging helps children learn rhythm, improve muscle control and balance, and develop fine motor skills such as arm coordination and gripping. Accessible swing sets allow children of all abilities to enjoy this fun, low-impact form of exercise that targets multiple muscles and joints.

Another prominent feature of accessible swing sets is that they provide extra support with a sturdy seat and straps or safety harnesses. Playworld’s accessible swing seats feature a rollercoaster-style safety harness that lifts up seamlessly to allow entry and exit. The high-back, sturdy seat is comfortable and secure for children with mobility challenges.

2. Sensory Play

Sensory play is an important activity that allows children of all abilities to engage their senses as they play. It encourages children to see, touch and feel objects, smell the refreshing outdoor air, and listen for different sounds. Sensory play helps children understand their environment better and build stronger nerve connections.

You can encourage sensory play on the playground by incorporating different equipment and accessories. Some of these products and techniques include:

  • Install musical instruments with drums, bells and chimes to engage children’s auditory senses.
  • Provide rollers and spinners that create unique sensory experiences for children with wheelchairs.
  • Incorporate play panels into play areas to provide children with a unique auditory and tactile experience.
  • Elevate ground-level sandboxes to improve accessibility for children who aren’t able to sit, kneel or bend to reach the traditional sand pit.
  • Modify gardens to make them easier for children with wheelchairs to reach so they can participate in child-friendly gardening activities.

3. Wheelchair-Friendly Climbing Structures

Wheelchair-friendly climbing structures are exciting equipment to incorporate on a playground. Children with wheelchairs get to challenge themselves physically as they pull along the structure, and they’ll get to feel included by playing along while their peers climb and hang on monkey bars and other structures.

The Playworld Unity Dome is an example of a wheelchair-friendly climbing structure that can be enjoyed by children with a range of mobility levels. The dome consists of many connected rings so children with wheelchairs can easily pull themselves around. Children with limited lower body mobility will also have fun and get some exercise, as they can use the sturdy rings to support them as they walk around the dome area.

4. Accessible Merry-Go-Rounds

A merry-go-round encourages motion play, which enables children of all abilities to enjoy movement and develop essential coordination skills. These freestanding products provide opportunities for children to create cherished memories filled with laughs and giggles as they spin around. The equipment also helps children understand the concept of cause and effect and improves their fine motor skills, balance and spatial awareness.

The Accessible Whirl by Playworld allows children of all abilities to spin together and create unforgettable memories. It accommodates up to two wheelchairs or mobility devices and an extra seat for a caregiver or a differently abled friend. The Accessible Whirl sits flush on the ground, making it easy to get on and off.

5. Adapted Sports Courts

Adapted sports courts are modified to allow people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities to play along, making sporting activities more accessible. Badminton, tennis, basketball and volleyball are some of the most easily adaptable sports.

Basketball can be a wonderful game and physical education activity for children with wheelchairs because it can be played sitting down and it provides a great workout. It also gives kids a chance to build teamwork skills and overcome challenges together. Teachers and parents can adjust the rules to make it easier for children to participate. Here are some tips:

  • Allow the children to dribble the ball using two hands.
  • Keep a slower pace until the children learn to play together.
  • Allow children using wheelchairs to hold the ball in their lap as they move.
  • Use smaller and lighter balls.
  • Lower the basketball hoop, if possible.

One way to play an inclusive basketball game is to incorporate the word game “horse,” which can be a lot of fun for older kids. To play, ask the kids to line up and take turns tossing the ball into the basket. Every time a child scores, give them one letter of the word “horse.” The first one to get all the letters wins the game. If you wish, you can choose shorter words, like “cat” or “dog,” to simplify the game.

6. Interactive Play Panels

Interactive panels have revolutionized how we communicate, learn and play. Interactive musical, sensory and activity panels engage children with wheelchairs, helping them develop eye-hand coordination, thinking and concentration skills.

Incorporating play panels with games can enhance the play experience and offer additional developmental benefits. For instance, a music panel can be seamlessly integrated into the game of musical ball, adding an extra layer of interactivity and excitement. Musical ball requires a beach ball and someone to keep track of points. Musical ball can be played on the playground, where there is plenty of room to stretch out. It can be a fun game if the playground features musical panels, too. This game helps children build hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

To play musical ball, ask the children to gather around in a circle. Then, hand the beach ball to one of the players. Tell the kids to pass the ball around once the music starts to play and to stop when the music ends. Then, start to play music, either using an activity panel or another source for about 30 seconds. Whoever is holding the ball once the music stops is awarded one point. Keep playing until a player reaches a total of five points and wins the game.

7. Wheelchair-Accessible Obstacle Course

All kids can enjoy the thrill and action of completing an obstacle course at the playground, and it’s a great way to promote exercise and the development of coordination skills. You can create an obstacle course by incorporating playground equipment or setting up challenges in a large open space with accessible surfacing.

For example, you can use cones, chalk lines, masking tape or other objects to create a path each child must maneuver through. You can ask them to pick up soft toys along the way, then toss them into a bucket at the end of the path before moving on to the next obstacle.

You can use a timer to see which team wins, or turn it into a relay race, so each person on a team only completes one obstacle. If you wish to avoid competition between children, you can time each kid’s performance, and then challenge them to beat their own score.

8. Through the Hoops

Kids who use wheelchairs need to build their upper body strength, and one way they can do that is to practice throwing balls with a game like Through the Hoops. Through the Hoops is a game idea provided by the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC). This game can be a fun calorie-burning muscle-building way for children with wheelchairs to compete with their peers.

To play Through the Hoops, you’ll need a hula hoop, a collection of small, soft balls and rope. You can either use the rope to hang the hula hoop from a branch or ask a volunteer to hold the hoop. Just make sure there is plenty of clear space behind the hoop for each ball to land.

Next, ask each player to stand a certain distance away from the hoop and throw as many balls as they can through it within a time limit. Encourage kids to test out different arm movements by tossing the balls with an over-arm throw or under-arm throw. Once they improve their skills, increase the challenge by moving them further away from the target or asking them to use a badminton racket to hit the balls through the hoop.

9. Wheelchair-Friendly Treasure Hunt

Kids love to hunt for treasure, and a playground is the ideal setting for a game of finding clues that lead to the ultimate prize. When kids participate in a treasure hunt, they get to interact and build their social skills and problem-solving abilities. A treasure hunt also encourages kids to get away from TV screens and to get active. The key to creating a successful treasure hunt is to keep it short at first. Once kids get the hang of it, you can add more activities to make it longer and more challenging.

To have a treasure hunt, hide objects throughout the playground that kids of any ability can reach. You might provide a clue that leads to another clue, which eventually directs the players to the treasure. You can also hide puzzle pieces that the players must put together to find the prize. The puzzle may be a coded phrase they have to figure out, a riddle or an easy jigsaw puzzle that shows them where to go. Don’t forget to lead them to an actual treasure, which might be a shoebox filled with plastic gold coins or trinkets to take home.

Before you begin, establish a theme to stimulate the imagination and generate excitement. For example, you might tell your group of players that they are pirates in search of a long-buried treasure, or princesses and knights who must find the key to the castle. Watch their faces light up when they discover they’re about to embark on a special quest.

Keep in mind that there aren’t really any rules to having a treasure hunt, so you are free to make whatever adjustments you need to suit all the players. Having a treasure hunt with a child using a wheelchair means you will want to make sure they can search for the hidden items without encountering hazards. Also, keep the hunt restricted to a play area with accessible surfacing, such as poured-in-place rubber.

How Wheelchair-Accessible Playground Activities Benefit Children

Why should you set up your playground so that it is accessible to wheelchairs? There are dozens of reasons! Here are a few of them:

It’s More Fun For Kids

Everyone has more fun when nobody is excluded. Children with and without wheelchairs can have a great time playing together on Playworld’s inclusive equipment.  Plus, it’s fun! The slides and swings are unique and different from the standard equipment that you see at every other playground. Your kids will be excited to try something new and will have a blast.

It Encourages Creativity

There’s a special kind of joy that comes in watching children learn how to play together despite their differences and abilities. Wheelchair-accessible playground activities can boost creativity in kids of all ages, and the parents who are helping as well.

It Teaches Kids To Be Inclusive

Being inclusive on the playground sets up children to be inclusive in the rest of their lives. Inclusive playgrounds set an example for the rest of the community, and can have a domino effect that lasts for years to come. It will teach children to look at the world through different lenses other than their own, and how to adapt to different situations.

It Helps Build Self Esteem

When children learn that they can safely play on our pieces of equipment, they learn that they can take on new challenges and build self esteem. These are valuable lessons that will help them in the rest of their lives.

Wheelchair-Friendly Playground Equipment From Playworld

To create a truly inclusive playground, you need to include a range of wheelchair activities and challenge levels to meet the needs of all children. Today’s play spaces emphasize innovation and inclusive design, so no one has to be excluded. For example, items such as play panels and telescopes at various heights allow children with wheelchairs to easily access the activities. Likewise, rubber surfacing makes it easier to move around with a wheelchair. Ramps and accessible gliders, swings and merry-go-rounds let all kids participate in the fun together.

At Playworld, you’ll find a range of inclusive solutions to build a welcoming, thrilling and accessible playground for children who use wheelchairs. Consider equipment such as:

  • Unity® Dome: The Unity Dome is a unique climber that invites all kids to hang out together. Kids can’t wait to climb to the top of the dome from the outside or hang from the inside rungs. Kids with wheelchairs look forward to zooming around the outside of the dome or right into the middle of it using the rungs to pull themselves along. If they wish, they can stop to express their creative side at an optional Sensory Connector, which might be a drum, washboard or tambourine.
  • Cone Spinner Double-Decker: The Cone Spinner Double-Decker is tallest of the Cone Spinners and accommodates the largest number of children at a maximum of 14 children. An entrance to the center of the Cone allows children of all abilities to engage in a stimulating and unique play experience.
  • AeroGlider: The AeroGlider lets kids put their teamwork skills to use as they joyfully sway together. With enough room for two wheelchair users to sit next to each other and comfortable hand grips to hold onto, it’s easy for all kids at the playground to go for a ride.
  • Accessible Whirl: The Accessible Whirl is a playground classic taken to the next level. Kids using wheelchairs can get on for a thrilling ride next to their peers and spin round and round as they laugh together.
  • NEOS® 360: Players of all abilities enjoy stimulating, competitive fun with NEOS 360. This circular digital structure gets kids moving and features eight different games.

Ready to start creating an inclusive playground? Browse all of our accessible playground products to request a quote!

Contact Playworld for More Information

Childhood is a special time in life, meant for growing, playing and learning. Every child deserves a chance to enjoy the fun of being a kid and having access to the tools that will help them flourish. At Playworld, we are proud to provide innovative and inclusive playground equipment that encourages children to move their bodies, embrace their differences and share their dreams.

If you would like to learn more about our thrilling and accessible playgrounds, please contact Playworld today!

Related Posts:

The Importance of Inclusive Playgrounds

Tips to Make School Playgrounds More Inclusive

Inclusive Playgrounds vs. Accessible Playgrounds

How to Make an Existing Playground Inclusive on a Budget

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