Moving cities is a big and exciting step for many families and although they can bring many benefits, they can also take their toll on a child’s wellbeing. A study on 50,000 children has found that the impact of a move is often worse for kids aged over five. This is because children this age often have a friend group that they have to leave behind and growing accustomed to a new school can also take its toll. Children with disabilities can find it particularly hard to fit in if their new city or town is less inclusive than their previous place of residence. How can optimal playground design ensure that children can make new friends and feel like part of a cohesive group, all while indulging in the fun experience of play?
Encouraging Group Play
One of the most important roles of design when it comes to playgrounds is to encourage group play. Children generally benefit greatly from social interaction but an inclusive playground can help children adapt to a new city, town, or country area, enabling them (and their parents) to meet new people and create the potential for future playdates. Parents who move to a new area often aim to provide stability for their children by maintaining old friendships, but building new networks can make the transition far easier. Playground designers should boost social interaction by choosing equipment that encourages cooperative play. The equipment should enable children to climb, run, jump, and crawl together. Ideal features include various swings placed side by side, obstacle courses involving many different games and tasks that children can complete together, large sandpits and other equipment designed for group play.
Over three million children in the US have a disability and playgrounds should be accessible if these kids are to enjoy a varied, socially enriching experience. All playgrounds should enable children to take part in sensory play, providing play zones with a plethora of tactile, audio, and visual opportunities. Equipment can include water walls, tables where children can work with clay or magic sand, headphones for music, mud kitchens, water channel stands, mud boxes, and more. Ramps and ground-level play opportunities should be available, as well as equipment such as inclusive swings and slides. Paths should be level and smooth so children using wheelchairs can comfortably make get from one side of the playground to another. Children should be able to enter the play area from the same entrance point so nobody feels excluded. If designers are renovating an existing playground, they should identify deterrents such as slopes and narrow paths that can hamper accessibility, considering cost-effective ways to eliminate these obstacles.
Children who move to a new area can miss their old playmates. Playgrounds that are inclusive and that encourage social interaction can help new kids feel that they are once again at home. Playgrounds need to offer plenty of opportunities for kids to play together. They should also be fully inclusive so that nobody feels left behind or isolated.