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What Is Inclusive Play? Your Guide to Embracing it in Your Playground

Inclusive play is a term used to describe children and young people having equal access to, and equal participation in, local play, childcare, and leisure activities. A lot of usage of the term will be focused on children with disabilities, but the principles of inclusive play apply to children and young people of all:

It’s also important to remember that inclusive play isn’t just about the inclusion element. The quality of the play opportunities, regardless of a child’s needs or abilities, needs to be taken into consideration as well.

What Is Meant by Inclusive and Stimulating Play?

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Inclusive and stimulating play is simply play that makes opportunities available to all children and young people, while also helping them to explore their feelings and senses, to express themselves, and to make sense of their world and life experiences. 

If you incorporate stimulating play into your best practices well, both of these should be taken care of.

Making Play Inclusive in School Playgrounds

It might be worrying, wondering what you can possibly do to make your playground an inclusive and stimulating environment for all children. This is where organisations such as Sense and the Sensory Trust are able to step in and offer guidance and advice:

The Training and Skills You Might Need

Professionals working with children and young people in mainstream settings often need confidence, training, and expertise to ensure they’re including everyone in play activities. This might include training in response to a child’s medical needs, or the medical needs of multiple children, and communicating with children with specialist communication requirements.

Experts at Sense claim that many play providers do not know where to access training, and struggle to resource the training of staff members. When these play providers were asked, they also stated that generic training does not include enough information about working with children who have disabilities. 

To combat this, Sense recommends mainstream play providers work in partnership with specialist settings and training providers. The organisation’s own Children’s Specialist Services team is an example of where this expertise can be found. They’re also happy to help support mainstream play providers when children in their care have multi-sensory impairments.
Sense also offers Sense Family Centres at certain locations across the UK, which are available for hire for one-off sessions or weekly school visits. Contact the organisation at to see if they have a centre for hire near you.

The Legal Bit

When looking to make your playground more inclusive, especially in regard to children with disabilities, you must also be aware of your legal responsibilities. The Equality Act 2010 provides legal protection to disabled children and families wishing to access play services.

Through the Act, providers of play facilities:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission offers a range of information and guidance on its website, regarding legal requirements in relation to discrimination, reasonable adjustment, and the public sector equality duty.

Designing Inclusive Play Areas

When designing an inclusive play space for your school, you should:

Create a Mix of Play Opportunities

Physical: these are the areas a child can run or wheel about on, containing trees or equipment for climbing and balance, walls and areas for ball games, markings and areas for chalk games, and other play equipment for different physical challenges. The latter should include options that focus on the upper body.

Creative: these are the quiet spaces, with natural materials for making things, overhanging tree branches or sensory domes for dens, storytelling spaces, and sensory plantings to support activities.

Social: these are the areas where kids can read and chat as they please, with tables and chairs available for card or board games, and other open spaces for group activities.

Make Different Types of Spaces

Not everyone always wants to do the same thing! You should aim to create a variety of spaces within your playground, so children have the choice of being active or doing something quieter. One of your quiet spaces should also serve as a time-out area for those kids who could use a break.

Boundaries have to be taken into account when designing any kind of play space. These might be made to reduce opportunities for children to wander too far, or it might be for other security reasons. All zones should be marked and planned out for the type of use, but not segregated in any way.

We all know how unpredictable our climate can be in the UK, too, so shelters with seating should be provided for bouts of inclement weather and particularly strong sun.

Engage Kids’ Senses

Children of all abilities and ages will benefit from approaches which engage their senses, so make the most of these wherever you can. Choose materials and activities that explore them, with different shapes, textures, solidities, weights, patterns, colours, and temperatures. Put these sensory stimuli up high in some areas and down low in others in order to provide choice.

If children in your care have sensory impairments, try to include a range of things they can explore through touch, reflected light, or strong colours and contrasts. You might also get them interested through playground activities, equipment, and materials that make use of sound and vibration.

Make it All Accessible

It doesn’t matter how inclusive the playground itself is if children can’t get to it. All students should be able to get to the space from wherever they set out, whether that’s home, school, or a nearby car park. Think deeply about the whole journey children and families will take to get there.

Other Tips for Incorporating Inclusive Play

Target Throw, Playground Markings, Goldthorpe Primary Academy, South Yorkshire

How We Can Help

Our playground markings and sports court lines are the perfect first step in setting up an inclusive playground. They are:

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Include Everyone in Your Playground Design Today

If you’re ready to transform your outside space into an inclusive playground for kids of all ages and abilities, Designs & Lines will help you get started. Have a look at our playground markings to find the foundations for the play design you want, and contact us when you want to place your order.

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