Building an inclusive park with play spaces for children with all abilities to interact benefits everyone in your community. Whether designing an entire park or building only a playground, consider the advantages of embracing inclusive structures when choosing equipment.
Inclusive play spaces are accessible, comfortable and fun for all children. Physical, mental or learning disabilities should not be barriers to enjoying the most fun attributes of the playground. In fact, one of the eight keys to inclusive structures is to ensure everyone can play with the “coolest” thing in the playground. Other important aspects of an inclusive playground include providing challenges for all children, sensory experiences, fencing, zoning and using unitary surfaces. With these elements, all children feel welcome to have fun with others of various abilities.
Benefits of Building an Inclusive Park and Playground for Children of All Abilities
Reasons to build an inclusive playground in a park include the numerous advantages brought by this type of play area. Kids of all abilities reap benefits in their physical, mental and social health. Plus, their parents can see changes in their kids, too.
Inclusive playgrounds may require more planning, but the benefits will come quickly when you see more kids getting to enjoy the space and have similar experiences together. If you want more incentive to consider an inclusive playground for your next project, consider the following advantages of this type of play space:
1. Promote Diversity in the Community
Disabilities impact a significant percentage of kids. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 7.3 million kids in national public school enrollment have a disability, which is 14% of students. These disabilities include learning, speech and hearing, self-care and ambulatory. Communities need to be even more cognizant of families with kids who have disabilities than ever.
Children with disabilities and their families need places where they can feel like part of a community. They also need somewhere where their kids’ have their needs for education, play and more addressed. Accessibility provides a way to address those needs. But inclusivity encourages interaction among kids of all abilities, which promotes social connections and reduces isolation. Parents of kids with disabilities who find inclusive play areas in communities may feel more comfortable living in those places.
When you have an inclusive playground in your community, you can meet these needs for play and building social skills for kids with disabilities. Your playground can encourage families of children with disabilities to move into the area. Diversity in communities is crucial because people from different backgrounds can contribute in unique ways to the neighborhood.
While living there, these families can offer their perspectives on life, which can bring empathy from others to their experiences. Plus, by becoming active community members with voices that everyone hears, these families can promote inclusivity in other areas of the community, such as education and clubs. By drawing on a range of backgrounds and opinions, communities become more enriched and connected.
Over time, parents can attain the same benefits from interacting with those who have kids with disabilities that their kids get on an inclusive playground.
2. Stand out as a Unique Play Place
An inclusive playground is not something most people see daily. These types of play spaces often warrant news stories to announce their openings thanks to their uniqueness. By providing an inclusive playground for your neighborhood, you set your community apart as a welcoming place for families with all sorts of children.
Finding playgrounds that cater to all kids’ needs and encourage interactivity among everyone is difficult in some parts of the country. By introducing this type of playground, you provide a unique experience for play.
Kids in your community with access to inclusive play are among the lucky ones in the country. They have a park where they can build important skills through play and social interactions that other playgrounds may not accommodate. Even in other areas of life, such as school, kids may not gain valuable interactions with fellow kids of varying abilities.
To meet academic needs, schools may group students of similar academic abilities into classes. These students work and play with these same groups of their peers throughout the school year. In some cases, they may follow the same group of students through their elementary years because the school wants to keep those with similar learning abilities together. While this can make it easier for teachers to meet the similar academic needs of their classes, it does not provide an inclusive environment.
Students should have outside locations where they can play with students who come from different backgrounds and have different abilities or developmental stages. Inclusive playgrounds can fulfill this need by creating a unique setting that kids may not find at school or elsewhere.
Parents will appreciate the chance for their kids to interact with those different from them, regardless of ability. Some may use your inclusive playground as a deciding factor to move into the community or select your particular school district.
3. Create Cohesiveness Among Kids in the Neighborhood
Kids need to learn to get along with others from any background. As noted, they may not have this chance in school. Through the freedom of play on an inclusive playground, kids can make connections with those unlike themselves.
For instance, inclusive play areas offer kids the opportunity to engage with kids outside of school who come from different backgrounds. The kids they meet on an inclusive playground may have differences in economics, culture, race, physical ability, mental development or emotional growth. Through play, the kids can find common ground that unites them.
Making connections with others can create a more cohesive community among kids, which can positively impact their parents. Often, parents stand by the play area while watching their kids. When the parents see their kids making connections with each other, they can build their own relationships with the parents of other kids. Strong ties among kids and parents keep the entire community strong by providing people with others they can turn to for help.
4. Boost Creativity Among Kids in the Area
Kids use play to build various aspects of themselves. While they do benefit physically from active play, their imaginations also get a workout during free play. The freedom to play outside of set game rules lets kids get creative to think of their own rules for play.
These rules may create games for using swings or slides. In a child’s mind, a slide could turn into a portal to another world. A swing could be a flying vehicle. While imaging these elements as different things, kids can also make up stories around them. They may use a slide to reach a cavern where they need to find buried treasure. Or a swing may become a plane in their imagination to take them to an island inhabited by roaring dinosaurs, played by other kids on the playground.
Playgrounds encourage kids to use their imaginations to think of creative ways to play. With inclusive sites, those with different backgrounds can bring their creativity to the play space, too. The collective stories and games the kids on the playground think of are richer and more vibrant with everyone contributing.
The chance to engage in creative play should not have barriers. Inclusive play spaces allow kids of all abilities to use their imaginations and benefit from the creativity of others.
5. Allow More Kids to Use the Playground
Playgrounds not focused on inclusivity only serve kids who have the physical, mental and developmental capabilities to use them. Unfortunately, some kids get left out. But inclusive playgrounds provide kids of all abilities the chance to enjoy the equipment. One of the primary attributes of inclusivity for play spaces is the availability of the “coolest thing” on the playground for all kids. This means everyone can use the best element of play and not feel left out.
By catering to a wider range of kids, you can invite more children to the play area. With a playground that is accessible and inclusive, kids who play there can participate and feel part of the group, regardless of their abilities.
If you want to meet the needs of all kids in the community, you need an inclusive playground that gives the gift of fun to everyone.
6. Provide a Location for Kids to Build Social Skills
Kids need a safe place to build their social skills. School offers one option, but playgrounds provide a freer chance for kids to practice their interactions with others. With a playground, while kids have adult supervision from their parents, they don’t have guidance in their play. Children can work on their social skills by meeting and interacting with others.
Learning to talk to other kids they don’t know can help kids to become more open in their social lives. Even kids who are quiet may find themselves drawn into play by other, more outgoing children on the playground. If quiet kids stay isolated at home, they won’t have the chance to engage with others and build social skills.
Kids don’t always have chances to practice the peer interactivity skills they learn at school. Playgrounds give them the freedom to engage with other kids. Inclusive playgrounds promote empathy, and kids also learn valuable social skills through play, like taking turns and helping each other.
And because parents are nearby offering supervision, the kids can request help from a nearby adult if another child does not act nicely. Safe, supervised places for kids to work on talking to other kids can provide a fresh way for them to build their social skills, which they will use for the rest of their lives.
7. Get Local Kids of All Abilities Physically Active
Play makes physical activity more fun for kids. But some schools reduce recess time to ensure students have enough time for lessons. Those cutbacks mean kids may not get enough movement during the day at school. If they don’t have a source of free play outside, they may miss valuable benefits from regular exercise.
Elementary-aged kids, regardless of grade or ability, need about an hour of physical activity daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, many kids don’t reach this level. According to research from Tufts University, only 15% of typically developing children get the recommended amount of exercise.
By installing an inclusive playground, you can encourage all kids of every ability to participate in active play that can help improve their physical health and mental well-being. Kids who get enough physical activity daily can benefit from lower chances of osteoporosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Investing in active kids of all abilities today will lead to a group of healthier adults.
8. Prevent Isolation of Families of Children With Disabilities
Families with kids who have disabilities can feel isolated. Parents report feeling “overburdened” from the financial responsibilities, medical care, stress and other factors of life. Even siblings of kids with disabilities may feel that they have fewer chances for social interactions. Staying at home, though, can harm everyone in the family.
Isolation can lead to loneliness for kids with and without disabilities. Studies have shown correlations between increased feelings of loneliness and both physical and mental problems, such as headaches, anger, depression and anxiety.
Resources, such as inclusive playgrounds, give families of kids with disabilities places where the entire family can gather for a fun outing. The kids and their siblings can all play in the same play space and have an enjoyable time just being kids, away from the stress that isolation can bring. Plus, these kids can meet others, which can foster friendships and help them to build vital connections.
9. Teach Kids Empathy for Those Different From Them
Empathy is not an academic topic or something that kids can learn from books. Interacting with peers who have various abilities and developmental levels can help kids build empathy.
By talking to other people and hearing their experiences, kids can begin to understand the difficulties their friends have had to go through in life. This understanding promotes empathy, making kids more understanding of other people.
Kids who have empathy for others can put themselves in the shoes of their peers. This may make them less likely to bully others. Plus, they build skills for becoming contributing members of a social group that offers emotional help to others. This type of social group may also help those who do experience problems with bullies or other issues feel supported.
10. Offer Kids a Place to Feel Safe When They Play
Kids need to have a place where they can feel safe and capable of tackling the equipment, and that need for safety includes kids with disabilities. When safely used under adult supervision, inclusive playgrounds provide this type of play space for all kids.
Inclusive playgrounds need to account for the needs of all children. For instance, stainless steel slides that don’t produce electrostatic discharge are essential for kids who use cochlear implants for hearing assistance. Kids with visual impairments need tactile boundaries, such as fences, to help identify the boundaries of a play area. These can help these kids to have more fun and feel safe because they know they are staying within the playground.
Parents and caregivers, in particular, will appreciate how inclusive play areas can be safer for children of all abilities. Fencing can give peace of mind to any adult visiting a playground with their children. But parents of kids with autism who are prone to wandering or elopement will appreciate this inclusivity feature even more.
11. Educates Kids About Equity
Equity differs from equality in that equity gives everyone the chance to have the same experiences. Inclusive playgrounds can make equity in play possible by ensuring kids can enjoy the same types of activities, no matter their abilities. For instance, an inclusive playground has elements that challenge kids of all levels, so everyone can still have fun and feel the positive results of overcoming a surmountable challenge.
When kids can have similar chances to feel challenged, have fun and engage socially, they are in an environment that promotes equity for everyone. Kids who grow up with this level of play can realize how important equity is in other areas of life, especially as they grow into adults.
12. Teach Kids Sensitivity About Other’s Needs
Sensitivity to the special needs of others comes from building relationships. Social interactions on an inclusive playground mean that kids learn others have physical, mental or learning needs distinctive from their own. This understanding can help them become empathetic and sensitive. When they make friends with kids who have differences, they can become more sensitive to their friends’ needs and the requirements of others.
Sensitive kids are more empathetic and can better understand when others need help or have problems. They can help kids with different needs to feel more included. For instance, kids who interact with those who have autism have the sensitivity to understand when these kids need to take some time away from the playground for some quiet. Caregivers may then see this sensitivity reflected at home, as kids can become more passionate, caring and helpful.
13. Ensure Compliance With ADA Regulations and More
Inclusive playgrounds meet all the accessibility requirements from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because, first, inclusive spaces are accessible. These accessibility points allow for people who use wheelchairs or mobility aids to reach the play area, benches, water fountains, restrooms and nearby parking spots. If you want to make sure your new play space meets regulatory requirements, make it inclusive. A professional in inclusive play space design can help ensure both accessibility and inclusivity in all attributes of the playground.
14. Respect the Full Range of Learning Needs for Every Child
Inclusive play areas respect that kids have different learning and developmental needs. Some kids may need quiet spaces to enjoy interacting with colorful panels or play components. Having an inclusive area ensures you respect these kids’ needs and let them feel part of the peer group at play.
These kids don’t have to sit out from the playground when they need some quiet time. They can enjoy spending time with their peers or alone in quieter spots on the play space, as long as you have those provided in your playground design.
15. Provide the Building Blocks for Lifelong Friendships in Children
Kids learn social skills and build physical prowess through time on the playground. Free play helps them become more creative and connect with others. Inclusive playgrounds let them build friendships with kids they may not normally meet in their daily lives. These friendships are important to kids with disabilities, who may feel isolated or lonely, and kids without disabilities. Both benefit from acquiring new friendships and learning about the lives of those different from them.
These playground friendships may last for an afternoon or for life. By providing the means for kids to forge these relationships, you can offer them the chance to create lifelong friendships.
Embrace Inclusivity With Playworld
Bring the benefits of inclusive play to the kids who use your playground. With a playground that makes sure everyone can have fun and feel included, you can help to build lifelong healthy social habits in the kids who use the play space. At Playworld, we can help you create a playground for all that unites kids of all abilities. Contact us at Playworld to request a quote for inclusive elements for your playground space!