How to encourage inclusive play in your primary school.
What does a truly inclusive playground look like to you? Different opportunities for types of play, outdoor play equipment that is accessible for all, playground activities designed with social demand in mind? Or all of the above?
Developing an inclusive playground can be tricky. Especially when unstructured times (like lunch and break time) can be overwhelming for some children with SEND.
We share what an inclusive playground might look like in your setting and, importantly, how to encourage inclusive play at your primary school.
Request a free Playtime by FAWNS brochure to access all sensory equipment for your school.
What does an inclusive playground look like?
It can be easy to think that an inclusive playground only contains specialist SEND equipment designed with specific children or disabilities in mind. A truly inclusive playground is much more than well-chosen outdoor play equipment. It involves the why behind the choices and a whole-school culture and ethos commitment to removing play barriers.
Your setting is as unique as the children you teach. Your children may have access to rolling fields or a small space playground, but at the heart of inclusive play is opportunity. All children should be able to participate in active play during the school day. The steps you take to facilitate the opportunity for active play for all are what make your setting inclusive.
So, what makes a playground inclusive? This may vary depending on your setting; here are a few of the main accessibility factors our customers ask us for during playground design consultations:
- Social communication challenges.
- Physical disabilities.
- Varying frustration tolerances.
- Sensory needs.
How to encourage inclusive play in your primary school.
There are several factors to consider when encouraging inclusive play during break and lunchtimes:
1. Thoughtful playground planning.
When planning any school playground changes, whether that is designing a new playground or adding new playground equipment, there are lots of things to consider. We have over 30 years of experience and have fitted thousands of school playgrounds. Our knowledge of meeting specific needs, school funding challenges, and how to organise fundraising help schools design, create or enhance their outdoor learning and play space.
Your playground should think about the proximity of competitive-style games and reflective, quieter areas. To make the most of your space, your school may want to consider the different types of play possible (from active to role play).
2. Staff management to facilitate inclusive play.
Your school staff might benefit from undertaking trauma-informed CPD training when it comes to managing unstructured times (break and lunchtimes). An inclusive playground is inviting and safe for all children to enjoy. Knowing how to facilitate inclusive play by setting clearly explained boundaries can help children with SEMH needs. Organising a timetable or rota for classes to have time in specific playground areas can be useful for schools working with a small outdoor space.
3. Social demand and recharge.
Children, like adults, need a mixture of socially energising interactions and time to recharge individually. This social need can change depending on external factors such as a good night sleep or stress levels. Evaluate the types of active play opportunities your current playground encourages. Is a balance between high-social-demand activities (football or role-play stations) and lower-social-demand activities like gardening achieved? Your children may benefit from the safe and relaxing woodland tepee to encourage small group discussions, reading or drawing during playtime.
4. Space for outdoor learning or reflection.
We know the benefits of outdoor play in the EYFS, but why does this dwindle when the children move into key stage 1 and beyond? Learning outdoors has multiple benefits for all ages. Maintaining the all-weather learning equipment priority for key stages 1 and 2 can allow for a closer connection to nature, develop the ability to manage distractions and encourage movement with learning (which helps to secure knowledge).
Using equipment such as the favourite Play Barn, encourages children to engage with others in a social setting, all day every day.
Encouraging a love for reading across the school (including disadvantaged and SEND pupils) may be a whole-school priority. Design your outdoor provision around these whole-school priorities; make story times come to life by creating an environment imagination can run wild.
5. Sensory activities available.
Children’s sensory needs can often be misunderstood as defiance or disproportionate reactions. It is important that your outdoor equipment is chosen with sensory needs in mind.
There as specific preferences for sensory stimulation for children with additional sensory needs. Some children may prefer twisting actions or pressure applied. Recognising the different sensory outlets your outdoor play equipment can offer can help to regulate pupils in the way best for them.
Our Jungle Swing Trail is a favourite across mainstream and SEND settings due to the vast sensory opportunities possible. Children can twist, pull, push, swing and balance on the 7-stage trim trail. Choosing equipment that can be useful for sensory circuits is vital to support many children with Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Take a look at our latest brochure to gather inspiration for outdoor playground equipment that fits your outdoor space (even if a small space!)