Who is the winner? The top 10 inclusive playground equipment pieces
Creating an inclusive playground is a top priority; for many, it is the highlight of the school day. When designing or updating your outdoor play provision, it can be challenging to know where to start. This blog shares the pieces of inclusive playground equipment that make the top 10, supporting all 4 broad areas of need.
Why is inclusive play important?
School (and life, for that matter) does not operate on a one-size-fits-all approach; your inclusive playground should be no different. Encouraging inclusive play helps children to recognise and celebrate the differences we all have. Whether a child is a wheelchair user, enjoys heights, or focuses on building self-reliance skills, the playground should be a safe space for fun and development.
You can encourage inclusive play in your primary school or EYFS setting in many ways, including thinking about the playground design to allow for quiet sensory garden ideas and spaces to expend energy through physical activity.
If you are refining your inclusive playground using Pupil Premium, SEND, or Sports Premium budget or looking to get ideas to revamp your current provision, one of our SEND and inclusion experts can offer advice for equipment to fit your budget and pupil needs. Contact our experts today for a no-strings quote and discussion.
What is inclusive playground equipment?
When you think of inclusive playground equipment, you often think of equipment that offers sensory feedback, like water play, messy play or sand play. The beauty of outdoor play equipment is its versatility. To get the most out of your outdoor sensory playground equipment, you must first know how it can be used to support different areas of need and development.
Having a piece of outdoor equipment with only one purpose is limiting for schools, who are working on tight budgets. Inclusive playground equipment should be able to be enjoyed for countless reasons. Putting no ceiling on how imaginative children can be is one of the 7 benefits of outdoor play.
Let’s give an example with one of our best-sellers, Pick-up Sticks. Pick-up Sticks can be used for:
- Social development and turn-taking when in pairs and small groups.
- Language development to give instructions to a partner.
- Sensory input for those with hypersensitive and hyposensitive vestibular sensory systems.
- Allowing sensory feedback to almost all 8 sensory systems (taste is not recommended!)
- Memory games can aid cognition and learning skills.
- Relationship building with a new 1:1 teaching assistant through completing challenges.
- Slowly increasing frustration tolerance for children with SEMH.
- Allowing children to participate in bodyweight heavy work
Top 10 inclusive playground equipment to try in your school.
Inclusive playground equipment is ideal for specific SEND conditions and prompts children to build the necessary skills identified in their EHCPs. It also gives your playground design some direction, giving children who may prefer sensory activities with lower social demands a section of their own.
Inclusive playground equipment position 10: Talking flowers.
Coming in at number 10 and supporting SLCN development in children are Talking Flowers. Helping children to speak clearly, engage in conversation and build friendships. EYFS and Key Stage 1 pupils (including SEND and EAL children) can engage in speech and language interventions without realising.
Inclusive playground equipment position 9: Messy kitchen.
Rolling with the SLCN and language development theme, Messy Kitchens takes 9th in the top 10 of inclusive playground equipment. Supporting 6 out of the 7 areas of learning in the EYFS, this small piece of equipment can be used for role-play, instruction following and counting skills. Pairing with messy play, children can receive sensory feedback by using different materials to play with.
Inclusive playground equipment position 8: Activity panels.
A small but mighty addition to any inclusive playground. Chunky Noughts and Crosses boards can be used to build turn-taking and sharing, manage losing in a game and build social and cognition skills. Extending to Mathematical timestables and musical panels, there is something for every subject and interest.
Activity panel heights are not fixed, meaning the noughts and crosses panel can be installed at a lower height for younger children or wheelchair users. Attaching activity panels to a larger piece of equipment (like The Island) can help to improve engagement even further.
Inclusive playground equipment position 7: Gameboard tables.
Playground activities that boost discussions, cognition, and learning are popular for primary schools. Gameboard tables hold the 7th position in our top 10. From Sudoku Tables to Snakes and Ladders, activity gameboards can be an ideal, low social-demand task for children to engage with during unstructured time
Inclusive playground equipment position 6: Castle Sensory Island.
At number 6 is the Castle Sensory Island, a firm favourite for EYFS, primary, SEND and inclusive playgrounds. This regal piece of equipment has double-width ramps and a side area, making adult support and accessibility easy. Based low to the ground, the sensory island series allows young children the safety and confidence to build their physical development. The additional activity panels and Talking Pirate feature help to boost SLCN, too!
Inclusive playground equipment position 5: Birds Nest Swing.
Taking the 5th spot, we have the Birds Nest Swing. Sensory playground equipment is a staple in many children’s regulation strategies. Quicker swinging (or pushing) can simulate children’s sensory systems, whilst slow swinging (whilst lying down) helps regulate and calm when in a heightened space. Using a sensory swing can help children regulate and transition to a green learning space, used and enjoyed by pupils from EYFS to secondary age.
Inclusive playground equipment position 4: Water play.
Water play offers fantastic sensory feedback for children, which is why you often see water play stations in EYFS settings. There are several creative EYFS water play activities to try with SEND children to organise sensory input opportunities using your outdoor learning area. Water Walls can be calming for children to engage with; the more social options of Water Chutes help children to enjoy water play with their friends.
Inclusive playground equipment position 3: Shady Sandbox.
An all-weather Shady Sandbox helps to build an inclusive playground for your EYFS children. Suitable for a small group of children to play together, the sandbox can offer tactile experiences for children whilst building turn-taking, sharing and imaginative play. You can combine sandboxes and gameboard activities to increase engagement further.
Inclusive playground equipment position 2: Pick Up Sticks.
This award-winning piece of inclusive playground equipment series is an obvious favourite. Versatile with the size and complexity of the structure, children can meet sensory needs, expand social skills, build self-reliance and confidence and set simple goals to achieve.
Relationship building goes hand in hand with Pick Up Sticks, helping children to develop friendships and discussions and build working relationships with staff members who engage with them on this equipment.
Inclusive playground equipment position 1: Trim Trails.
Loved by EYFS, SEND, primary and secondary settings, trim trails are as broad as long. Ranging from sports-focused trim trails used in PE lessons to sensory circuits for schools. High-level trails help support children with hyposensitive vestibular systems, those who may seek risk-taking activities and appear to have a low sense of danger and risk. The opportunity to mix and match different trim trail components means each school can build a trail that fits the needs of their pupils.
Our expert SEND team are on hand to offer advice and suggestions to improve your inclusive playground provision; contact for more information and request a free brochure to see our full range of inclusive playground equipment.