Sensory Playground Equipment

Playgrounds are a place for play and exercise, but they can also inspire and promote development, especially if sensory elements are used. Sensory playgrounds use equipment and activities to stimulate all senses. A sensory experience can also make a play space more exciting for children, encouraging them to play. Playground musical instruments and other sensory equipment on playgrounds can even spark development by encouraging children to be more creative and to try different types of activities.

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Sensory-sensitive play areas can be more inclusive by allowing children with different play styles and abilities to play, and play with typically-developing children. If a child has a disability and can’t climb bars or use the slide, he or she might still be able to play musical playground equipment or climb onto a space that’s meant for tactile play. Children on the autism spectrum might also find cozy places created for tactile experiences to be soothing when they get overwhelmed.

Types of Sensory-Rich Equipment for the Playground

Sensory playground equipment includes equipment designed to help children engage five senses:

Most children love to explore sound. They listen to music, explore different volumes and try to make different noises.

For most children, though, sound tends to be controlled by parents and teachers. Kids are often told what sounds are acceptable, how loud they can be inside, and when they can make noise. Auditory equipment on the playground lets children make their own sounds. Some kids especially love being loud on the playground, where grown-ups don’t have to tell them to quiet down.

Playworld’s Babble-On is an example of auditory playground equipment. Children can use the handsets to talk to each other or to play around with different noises. Playworld’s Concerto outdoor instruments lets children try out rhythms and true tone sounds while Playworld’s Funky Animals with Sounds lets kids play with animal sounds. In addition, Playworld has many other types of equipment designed to get children making music and noise.

Every surface has a texture, and playground equipment is no different.

By choosing equipment with a variety of textures, children can learn about the importance of touch. Younger children love tactile differences, especially if bright colors are also included. Tactile experiences help children process auditory and visual clues.

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) do not integrate data from their nervous systems in the same way as a typically developing child. Their specific condition may not affect their sense of touch, but if it does, they will be either hypo or hyper-sensitive to tactile input. By offering a variety of tactile choices, the child can choose to receive the input they need.

Playworld’s Wildwood Climber is one example of this type of playground equipment. This climbing area has a rough texture on the outside, and knobby plastic designed to stimulate touch. Children can climb the structure or can sit underneath if they need a cozy spot. Playworld’s Roller Slither Slide is another example where a child who seeks more tactile input can get it from rollers that stimulate the whole body as they head down the slide.

Colors and shapes attract and keep the attention of most children from a young age.

Playground equipment that develops eye-brain coordination helps to create a rich learning environment.

Playworld has several types of playground equipment that emphasize visual engagement. For example, the Magnifying Panel lets kids look at different objects in a close-up way while the Activo® Bambino Rainbow Panels, the Disco Spinner and Kaleido Crossing lets them play with color and patterns.

A playground is a wonderful place for children to experience a variety of vestibular play experiences. The vestibular system helps us understand our body in relation to gravity, movement and balance. It measures acceleration g-force, body movements and head position.

Playworld’s swings, spinners, and balancing equipment let children experience their vestibular system. The Unity Basket Swing lets children feel the difference of swinging while sitting and laying. Using the Balance Trax is a great beginning balancing activity for children working on developing their vestibular system.

Climbing, hanging and crawling lets children work on their proprioceptive sensory system. It helps them sense the position of where one body part is when another, and the strength of effort employed in movement. This sense is important as it lets us know where we are in space and how plan our movements.

The Overhead Ladder with Parallel Bars is the classic piece of equipment for a child to work motor planning and effort. While Playworld’s different rope equipment suc as InfiNET, Quito, and Naica provide innovative and dynamic climbing events that challenge children in their motor planning skills.

Our children are more disconnected from nature than any other children in history, and we have little understanding of the long term consequences.
The playground is an ideal place to bring nature into the child’s environment.

Time in nature can boost the immune system, decrease stress levels, and offer a sensory-rich environment brimming with learning opportunities. A study done in Sweden found visiting natural areas reduced stress-related conditions while a small study of children with ADHD found that kids had an easier time focusing when they were in green or natural spaces.

Playworld has the Sandbox, PlayTown Nature Station, Window Planter Panel, and other playground equipment designed to get children interacting with the nature around them.

If you’re interested in making your playground area more interactive and inclusive for all kids, keep all five sensory types of playground equipment in mind. A play environment that uses sensory (and physical and social) activities contributes to a rich play experience. We believe in a) offering each child a challenge that is appropriate for them, and b) creating a rich play environment.

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Note: There’s an ongoing debate in the autism community over the use of identity-first (autistic person) and person-first (person with autism) language. Playworld understands that the choice is a highly personal one, especially for individuals in the autism community. Since there is no language that fits both sides of the debate, Playworld uses a combination of person-first and identity-first language.