Celebrating Inclusion And Diversity Through Play

Our planet is so diverse. People, places and cultures all vary and make up the fascinating world we live in. In the same way, no child is the same. Every child is wonderfully unique and will embrace different learning styles. They will find various elements of life easy, challenging, frightening or comforting at differing stages in their lives. Children develop and learn at their own individual pace and thrive through accessing a wide variety of stimulating, fun and inspirational experiences.

At Schoolscapes we recognise individuality and celebrate diversity, firmly believing that every child has the right to play, discover and explore. Our professional playground designers have years of expertise creating inspirational, inclusive play spaces within educational, therapeutic and recreational establishments across the country. We aim to allow all children to play and learn side by side, creating designs that are not only accessible, but offering a range of equipment that appeals to every user. We love inspiring children to laugh, live and learn together without boundaries!

Even though many schools and hospitals may support a large number of children with differing Special Educational Needs and Disorders (SEND), in reality every social group will include children with varying abilities, needs and confidence levels. Children’s unique physical, sensory and experiential requirements mean that every play space should be as inclusive and accessible as possible, creating fun play opportunities for all.

The SEND Code of Practice (2015) identifies ‘four broad areas of [special educational] need and support’: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health; sensory and/or physical needs. These 4 areas are certainly intertwined within children’s outdoor play. Our playground consultants consider every setting’s needs to ensure they maximise opportunities for inclusivity.

Mental Health

Often burdened with the ever increasing pressures and demands of everyday life, many children struggle to cope with growing expectations. When youngsters are stressed, their mental well-being can plummet, as they feel that they are failing or are never going to succeed. The freedom and chance to escape some of life’s pressures can have a radical effect on improving children’s health and wellbeing. Having regular access to fun, outdoor play spaces enables children to leave their worries behind, breathe the fresh air and take a moment for themselves.

Children love the freedom to explore at their own pace. They will often choose to stretch themselves through self-set challenges, where they’ll learn from risk-taking and from their own mistakes, rather than feeling pressurised to succeed first time. Evaluating and taking risks is a valuable life skill, essential for learning and sets children in good stead for successful futures in the real world of work.

Climbing high on the natural logs of an Adventure Forest allows children to ascend above their worries and enables them to look down on the world below with a sense of control. They can literally start to ‘feel on top of things’! For many children, escaping their worries for a little while often brings a sense of relief too. Physical, active play releases endorphins which improves self-esteem and makes children feel happier and more positive. Tunnels and Play Huts can provide another welcome escape from the real world, where children feel free to let their imaginations run wild. Children love to hide away inside and take time to recharge, rest and even sometimes love to make the most of a few tranquil moments of peace, hidden away from the hectic world.

Physical Play

Some children live with a wide range of permanent physical disabilities. However, other children also find physical activity challenging, as a result of having experienced limited, active play in their early years. Additional physical practise allows them the chance to further develop their physical skills and to build strength and muscle memory.  Some children may suffer from dyspraxia (DCD) and find coordination and balance hard to master, so they too can often benefit from extra, regular time spent gradually building up their motor skills.  If a child uses a wheelchair, they may require adult support to access some play equipment; with Schoolscapes’ thoughtful, focused and inclusive playground designs, children and their parents and carers stand more chance of finding play equipment they can easily access and enjoy.

Physical Play - Inclusive Roundabout

An Inclusive Roundabout certainly provides fun for everyone, however big or small, to play side by side. It’s creative design places the roundabout flush with the ground and offers users open access points and a curved seat. Wheelchair users can confidently ride aboard this modern play carousel and experience the sensation of spinning and changing speed and direction, that is so vital for good vestibular development.

Another very popular choice is the large Eagle Nest Swing. Its sturdy, steel-reinforced ropes provide a safe seat for children to enjoy swinging either independently or in small groups. Children can all feel the exhilaration of swinging through the air, however young or old and many like to just lie back and watch the clouds and birds zoom by!

At Regency Park High School, Schoolscapes delighted pupils by developing a bespoke Hexagonal Play Tower with an extensive access ramp, enabling all pupils to ascend, so they could peep through the round bubble windows and experience looking down on their friends from the high look-out tower. One of the benefits of working with natural timber and also having our own skilful craftsmen and an extensive workshop on site, means Schoolscapes really can design a playground to fit your school’s specific needs.


Regency High School - Inclusive Playground

Learn the benefits of the Hexagonal Tower


For many autistic children, the chance to engage in active, outdoor learning helps them to maintain focus and access the curriculum more easily over shorter periods of time as well as the benefits of learning through active, practical activities. Outdoors they can feel less enclosed and pressurised.  It provides a welcome escape from the noise and visual distractions that often accompany modern classrooms. Giving them regular chances to climb and move around, allows autistic children to concentrate for longer when they’re required to refocus.

Auditory/ Visual Stimuli

There are many children who cannot access the traditional school curriculum, who may respond well to sensory stimulation. They enjoy investigating colour, watching movements, listening to sounds and exploring the natural world around them. If one sense is weaker, often another sense will compensate. They learn best from real-life, physical experiences, rather than screens or books.

A Sensory Garden or Sound Zone can create a perfect learning environment for many children as well as a sanctuary where children can go to be as quiet or noisy as they like! With an amazing range of beautiful Outdoor Instruments, we promise that we can transform your outdoor play space into a magical, musical space where children can discover and explore with freedom and delight.

Outdoor Musical Instruments

The Rainbow Chimes provide a splash of colour, whilst allowing children to experiment with tuned notes. Colourful Tubano and Congas Drums, Outdoor Cymbals and Grand Marimba all help children to learn about pitch and dynamics in a space where they can make noise. Children just love it! For the maximum wow factor, the striking Bell Lyre Outdoor Musical Instrument and the magnificent Giant Chimes both double up as impressive, interesting sculptures within the grounds, as well as providing creative and musical inspiration! Many children enjoy feeling the vibrations caused by sound, as it is an invisible phenomenon they can physically experience.

For amazing visual stimuli, the clever Sand Pendulum allows children to create amazing patterns and pictures, with a simple push of the bucket. Children are amazed at the sand art they can achieve independently, and a quick photograph will capture their creation for them to keep. Dizzy Wheels are another accessible, fun option producing an unusual, visual treat, where children can create crazy patterns by spinning the wheels at different speeds; they can also develop their understanding of the language of maths when turning the wheels clockwise or anti-clockwise and explore fractions practically, by moving the wheels quarter, half and whole turns.

Tactile to Touch

Object Play - Poly Paint Station

A great inclusive addition to any outdoor play space is the innovative and creative Poly Paint Station. It can be post mounted or wall mounted and provides a permanent art zone within the playground.  Children can paint straight onto the transparent window saving the need for paper, or paper can be clipped on like an easel if children would prefer to keep their artwork. Then just simply unclip the art or take a quick snap, wipe down the plastic and start again! The great thing about outdoor art zones is that the children can be as messy as they like, and it doesn’t really matter. This certainly provides access to unrestricted art exploration, which many children benefit from and enjoy. It provides the ideal chance for learners to get creative, to play with paint and to explore colour and texture.

Another effective method to stimulate children’s senses is to enable them to learn through access to nature. Wheelchair Accessible Planters enable all children to experience gardening, to dig in the dirt and get busy planting side by side. The popular Sensory Planter Stax, with its weatherproof, informative labels, provides the perfect home to locate a mini sensory garden and can be stacked cleverly at different levels, allowing all children to be able to access the planters, according to their individual needs.  All learners love to touch soil and benefit from playing a part of a seed’s individual journey from sowing to germinating and growing to harvesting. They certainly love to harvest too! Gardening certainly brings colour and nature in abundance to any play space, as well as bringing joy to their little faces. They will have played an active role in a real-life miracle!

Symbolic Play - Mud Kitchen

Mud Kitchens also provide endless, messy and creative fun for all ability children. They can mix, pour, measure and concoct to their hearts content. Often a great stimulus for purposeful, imaginative writing and recording, mud kitchens remain a firm favourite with all children. Featuring well designed storage for all the pots, pans and utensils, and with easily washable basins and surfaces, the robust Schoolscapes’ Mud Kitchen comes in a size to suit any play space. Children with communication difficulties particularly love the chance to explore and play with natural materials, learning about their properties and how they alter state, in an unpressurised fresh air environment. They’ll soon be expressing their thoughts and ideas in their own ways!

Splashing and digging provide excellent sensory stimulation. The modern Water Wall and natural timber River Rapids enable children to build chutes of their own liking and design, giving children ownership and autonomy over their investigative play. Open ended activities can help children to share their ideas and thoughts more freely than more structured, directed activities. With the freedom to experiment and learn, many children feel able to succeed on a creative and physical level, bringing STEM learning strategies naturally closer to children of all abilities.

A wall mounted or post mounted Abacus also provides a very tactile, large scale resource, perfect for counting and recognising shape and colour. Children who find it hard to manipulate small objects just love the feel and tangible nature of these large scale, robust counters. They are perfect for reinforcing general maths learning outdoors, for practically counting sets, completing calculations, learning about place value or even useful for children to visually record the scores in outdoor games.

Social Surroundings

Sometimes children need their own space, but often they also love to be surrounded by friends too. It’s important for all children to feel accepted and part of a group, whatever their disability or needs. When gathered together in a play hut like the Friendship Cabin or snuggled up in an Outdoor Teepee, children can enjoy and experience friendship and camaraderie. Creatively designed shelters like the colourful Rainbow Lean-To, also provide a fun and exciting place to escape the elements, particularly useful if the weather changes during outdoor play!

Socia-Dramatic Play - Playtime Shop

A versatile Playtime Shop or Playtime Kitchen provides a creative, under cover space where children can play, explore their emotions and communicate through role play. Wide entrance points and open low-level windows make these the perfect place for all children to enjoy imaginative play. Children who enjoy more open spaces will certainly feel at home inside, playing with the cooker or selling groceries through the robust shop counter window. With a wide range of themed counter tops available, you can even choose from a Theatre, Post Office, Grocers Shop or a Restaurant to liven up your outdoors, role play area.

Playtime Garage

The addition of a Playtime Garage to any EYFS or KS1 playground provides hours of imaginative, social fun, where children can pretend to fill their vehicles with petrol or run them through the car wash! Beep, beep! Inventive play increases children’s chance to communicate, co-operate and to take turns… all important life skills that develop through active, imaginative play.  Make-believe play also encourages children to learn to become more independent, autonomous learners as well as giving children the chance to rehearse their emotional reactions!

Other great options which provide children with a fun place to gather, but also integrate physical play opportunities are the popular Jungle Play Den or Jungle Play Ship. With low level entrance points as well as ladders, slides and fire fighters’ poles, its easy for children with different mobility levels to climb onboard or descend via a variety of options, either independently or with support. The spacious, wooden platform creates an ideal spot for children to enjoy having a chat or taking a break.

For children who prefer to access low level equipment, a Crawl Thru Steam Loco with its All Seasons Carriages or a Large Clipper Ship offer endless opportunities for all children to play and explore with friends or quietly on their own. They will love to imagine they’re on an incredible journey packed with excitement and adventure. For some children who struggle to access the academic curriculum, imaginative and dramatic play is where they excel, also offering them a chance to share their emotions and feelings in a more relaxed environment, where they feel safe and successful.

Children all like to stop and take a break sometimes and our Integrated Picnic Table with Game Top enables children of all needs to sit together to eat, chat and play in comfort. With options of having wheelchair access opposite or diagonally opposite to each other, this bench can really be tailored to suit your setting’s individual needs. A wide range of attractive, colourful, weather-proof games tops are also available to choose from, making rest times, more challenging and fun!  The timber Access 6 Table provides a large hexagonal table with 3 bench seats and 3 open spaces, where children can either stand or effectively access with their wheelchairs. The open space around the seating enables children with mobility difficulties to slide onto the benches more easily.

Accessible Areas

All children certainly love to get outdoors to learn, discover and explore. Our stunning, natural timber Hexagonal Gazebos create amazing, inclusive, outdoor classroom spaces, with the option of open, enclosed sides and even safe, polycarbonate windows. That will really keep the wind and rain out! Additional access ramps and bench seating will effectively ensure that all children have the same chance to use this shelter to play and learn side by side. We can also add access ramps to Staging, Rectangular Shelters and Decking Areas, just let us know your requirements.

Inclusive Ideas

If you already have some ideas you’d like to share about your vision for your play space or need some inspiration and guidance in how to rejuvenate or even totally overhaul your outdoor space, just let our expert playground consultants know your specific needs and we’ll create the perfect inclusive and accessible play area for you, benefitting generations to come.

Celebrating Inclusion And Diversity Through Play was last modified: February 23rd, 2021 by Steve Bell

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