Communities are diverse. Playgrounds should be too. Active, independent play is critical for the development, health, well-being, and social opportunities of all children. However, the benefits of play are not limited solely to children, but reach across communities and throughout one's lifespan. Now more than ever, communities across the world are seeking innovative ways to unite children, families, and community citizens through the power of play. Understanding the value and benefits of inclusive, multigenerational play will help communities advocate for and invest environments which support the diverse needs of society - ultimately resulting in positive community outcomes.
A Unique and Comprehensive Inclusion Philosophy
Inclusive play is not solely about physically accessing an environment, but also intensely focused on what happens once an individual gets there. By equipping children of all abilities with inclusive environments and the skills to play together more independently, children will feel nurtured, encouraged, respected, and active during play - both physically and socially - thereby creating a sense of community among all children.
Respecting the developmental needs of children and designing inclusive play environments that meet the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design® is a critical first step in providing the foundation for inclusive play to occur. Whole communities start with inclusively designed whole environments which carefully meet the needs of the whole child.
Respecting the Needs of the Whole Child
Research continues to demonstrate the importance of play across the interconnected domains of child development: physical, social-emotional, sensory, cognitive, and communication. Children, and indeed all individuals regardless of age, need to be able to be active, exercise self-determination, engage in social interactions, learn and understand, and experience an appropriate sensory environment to enhance their overall quality of life.
Opportunities to be active in play, and participate in community recreation, creates positive physical activity patterns and continues to contribute to better health outcomes. Some of the many benefits from participating in play are higher self-esteem, positive, self-identity, and emotional well-being that have a lasting effect on an individual into their adult life.
"Some of the many benefits from participating in play are higher self-esteem, positive, self-identity, and emotional well-being that have a lasting effect on an individual into their adult life."
Play is the natural environment where social interactions occur, contributing to greater acceptance, the breaking down of barriers, and the fostering of friendships. Creating truly inclusive and embracing play experiences should start with an understanding and intentional design focus on the developmental needs of the whole child.
Innovating Research-Based Whole Environments
Inclusively designed whole environments support child development and the unique context of the play setting. The 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design® have carefully tailored the adult focused Principles of Design, originally created by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University for indoor environments (Center for Universal Design, 1997), to what children want to feel and experience during play in outdoor environments. While no two universally designed play environments are alike, we know that children want to "Be" and feel fair, included, smart, independent, safe, active, and comfortable during play. By aligning these evidence-based 7 Principles of Inclusive Design and the specific guidelines and considerations offered in this guidebook to the outdoors, of all people, of all ages, and all abilities.
Celebrating Inclusion for the Whole Community
Inclusive play is our passion and purpose. Together we can effectively promote inclusive play as a critical solution to enrich and enhance the quality of life for children, families, and communities across our nation. We hope you will join us as we continue to investigate, learn, and collaborate for broader social equity.