Value of contiguous play

350-1210_REN_APlaygrounds are often designed with equipment that is arranged by level of difficulty.  This means the most challenging climbers are together and on the other side of the playground are easier climbers.  The goal of this arrangement is to keep younger and older children separated, so that the younger ones are not hurt or encouraged to play on equipment that is too difficult for them.

The result of this layout is not only a separation by ages, but also by ability.  For instance, if the type of climber a child with a disability requires is one of low challenge and located in the younger play area—the 10-year-old is now playing with the 4-year-olds instead of children his or her own age.

The authors of the Inclusive Play Design Guide  encourage playground designers to position similar pieces of equipment adjacent or connected to one another.  For example, arranging all of the balancing activities together, regardless of their level of challenge encourages inclusive play.  The result of this is younger children are watching the older children and learning from them.  Children of the same age, but of differing abilities, are playing in the same location.

Imagine a playground where:

  • A chinning bar is placed where a child in a wheelchair can reach, connected to …
  • Monkey bars that are located where young children can reach, connected to …
  • Higher, more complicated monkey bars connected to …
  • A monorail or other overhead piece of equipment that moves

The result is:

  • Ten-year-olds creating races where you have to go from one piece of equipment to another
  • A child with Spina Bifida who uses a wheelchair is wowing her peers by chinning consecutively 25 times
  • A 7-year-old is trying hard to accomplish the higher monkey bars, watching the older kids for ideas; older kids are calling out words of encouragement

By allowing all children to play and learn together, you’re creating an inclusive environment.  The Inclusive Play Design Guide refers to this type of equipment placement as: “contiguous or co-located” with the intent to invite engagement between children of varying abilities.

Is your community playground contiguous or co-located?