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5 Benefits of Special Needs Playground Equipment

May 2, 2019

Inclusive play equipment exists to involve children and young adults with disabilities in playing and social activities. The accessible playground requires a great deal of planning as the diverse challenges and potential risks to children and adults using the site need to be considered. As a result, understanding users’ needs is important.

Physically impaired persons include: blind or partially sighted, deaf, people with multiple sensory disabilities, people with functional impairments such as sufferers of musculoskeletal diseases and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This leaves a lot to be considered when thinking about special needs playground equipment. For example, equipment colour should contrast the background in order to minimise the risk of trips and falls.

Regardless of a person’s disability, they should have an equal chance to socialise and play. This article will list a number of benefits for special needs playground equipment, including ways it can improve quality of life and development.

1. Parental involvement

Most playgrounds are built with able-bodied children in mind and the equipment is not suitable for adults. This usually results in neighbouring benches for parents to sit and observe their children as they play.

Inclusive playground equipment allows children with special needs to be accompanied by a parent or guardian as they play. For example, the fully accessible playground would include a slide that was big enough for a parent to use and assist their child. This is useful as children with physical impairments may need assistance to use the equipment.

As well as this, children with developmental problems may find the task daunting when alone. The parent can supervise their child more closely when using inclusive playground equipment, which may give the child the confidence to play alone, if they are able to.

2. Communal engagement

Playgrounds are for the community and should aim to have no barriers for engagement and enjoyment. Interestingly, not only can inclusion help special needs children play but it can teach able-bodied children to include them as well.

A recent study showed that playgrounds encourage children to be more active than PE lessons. The same study also stated that children who play together are more likely to be friends in later life. This means that special needs playground equipment could play an important role for able-bodied children too.

For example, if a child isn’t used to playing with physically impaired children, they might be unsure of how or if to include them in other activities. The experience of playing with children who are disabled will encourage inclusivity in other activities. This also benefits the confidence of special needs children as they can interact with their peers in the same way as other children.

3. Increased confidence

Adventure playground climbing frameCommunal playing can increase confidence in children. Interacting with similarly aged peers allows children to develop social and problem-solving skills from a young age. For special needs children, this can be especially important as they are likely to spend more time isolated or away from larger groups of children.

Inclusive playground equipment allows special needs children to build social skills and overcome challenges. Taking small risks when playing, or trying something new, gives children a sense of accomplishment that they can take into later life. Inclusive playgrounds aim to provide a safe and enjoyable environment to help special needs children develop and have fun.

4. Health and wellbeing

Research has shown that active children are more happy children, regardless of special needs. Exercise releases endorphins that can naturally elevate a person’s mood and motivation. Encouraging children to exercise is vital for their future health as they will be more likely to stay active in later life. This can reduce the risk of health problems from a sedentary lifestyle.

Further research reveals that four out of five disabled people are not active, but eight out of ten would like to increase their physical activity. This suggests that there are less opportunities for disabled people to be involved with physical exercise.

Inclusive playgrounds could hold the key to improving this for future generations. If disabled children are able to play normally alongside their peers, it is more likely that they will pursue an active lifestyle in adulthood.

5. Learning

A lot of inclusive playground equipment is educational. For example, musical equipment such as the aluminium tube glockenspiel can teach children about musical notes and the way in which different sized tubes will produce different notes. Similarly, the talking flowers, which are aimed at young children, allow children to talk to each other via the flowers in the same way previous generations might have using a cup and string. There is also special needs equipment that is educational in a more academic sense. For example, the caterpillar counter allows children to practise counting using sections of a caterpillar’s body.

Special needs playground equipment can serve more than just the individual. Inclusive playground equipment aims to involve everyone in play, regardless of physical or mental requirements. This kind of equipment is great for children with special needs as they can play with their peers and gain confidence. Equally, other children can learn to play with special needs children in the playground, and consequently in the classroom. The educational benefits of inclusive playground equipment shouldn’t be ignored either. There are specific pieces of equipment that focus on different subjects, from maths to music and more. However, the more physical pieces of equipment serve an important purpose too. Having this sort of equipment will encourage special needs children to be more active, which as we have said, brings with it physical and mental health benefits.

Written by: Andy Prentice
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