Whether they’re special educational needs outdoor playground equipment social skills or improving their balance and coordination, all children benefit from playtime. But children with special educational needs require extra care to make sure that the outdoor education space you provide meets their unique developmental and physical requirements.
For example, if other kids are climbing up a series of platforms and then onto the rock wall, that can be a difficult task for a child who uses a wheelchair. The playground should include ramps so that wheelchairs can access these areas of the equipment.
“Inclusive Play: Designing Outdoor Playground Equipment for Special Educational Needs
Children can also use the outdoors to practice self-regulation, a critical developmental skill that helps them understand how and when they’re feeling overwhelmed, unfocused or frustrated. This can help them refocus and feel more centered and ready to learn. The playground should include therapeutic activities that encourage this kind of self-regulation.
For younger children, freestanding climbers and open space are popular. For 5- to 12-year-olds, moving play equipment is more fun and can offer the challenge they need.
All of the outdoor playground equipment you select should be durable, easy to clean and ADA-compliant. The equipment should have no exposed sharp edges or surfaces, and the surfacing should be unitary (a fixed surface that covers a larger area, such as poured-in-place surfacing or rubber tiles) rather than loose-fill. Loose-fill surfacing can move around as children interact with the equipment and requires more regular maintenance than unitary surfacing. It’s also important to consider the proximity of nearby hazards, such as water, rocks or high traffic areas. You’ll want to ensure that your site is well-fenced with clear sightlines for supervisors.