Playgrounds are crucial to both the social and educational development of children. Not only do these vital areas allow children to engage in exercise to keep them healthy, but they also support children’s social, emotional and cognitive skills. In the playground, either in schools or at the local park, children learn how to interact with one another, solve problems and challenge themselves through play.
For the reasons listed above, playgrounds should be both accessible and inclusive. In this article, we’ll explore how play areas for children can be made inclusive and accessible through the use of certain design elements.
Accessible & Inclusive Playgrounds
Playgrounds designed and built with accessibility in mind focus on ensuring all children, including those with disabilities, can use the space and equipment within it.
Below are some of the conditions required for accessible playgrounds:
- Surfaces must meet the EN 1176 and EN 1177 standards; they should also be suitable for the intended use. For example, access routes and paths should be constructed from materials that are usable throughout the year and falling spaces must have surfacing materials appropriate for the equipment.
- Children should be able to reach and touch play equipment, features and landscaping
- Transfer platforms should allow a child or adult using a mobility aid to transfer to and from that aid independently and use the play space easily.
- Height changes between elevations, decks or play surfaces should be as small as possible to accommodate movement between them
- Key areas (such as entrances, gates, exits and busy routes) should be wide enough for those using mobility aids
- As much as possible, transitions between all route surfaces and play surface access points should be flush
The key to creating accessible playgrounds is to ensure that children can move around the space smoothly with the help of a mobility aid or not.
Inclusive playgrounds are outdoor or indoor spaces that can be used by children of all abilities and developmental stages. There should be no barriers to the enjoyment of the area, regardless of the differences between children.
Tips For Creating Accessible Playgrounds
Creating an accessible playground involves taking into account the conditions listed above and applying this to your space.
Surfacing on a playground is probably one of the most important areas to consider when making an accessible space. Often, in playgrounds, a wide range of different surfacing types are used in various colours to create an engaging space.
First of all, playground surfacing should prioritise the safety of users. Current guidelines (European Standards for Playgrounds EN1176 and EN1177) state that impact-absorbing surfacing should be laid under equipment with a free fall height greater than 600mm.
One type of product ideally suited for playground surfacing is MUGA pitch. MUGA pitches are specially designed for different activities. Type 1 & Type 2, for example, are designed for primary sports like basketball and netball; they usually have coloured anti-slip coating applied for safety reasons. Meanwhile, 3G MUGA is designed to appear as ‘natural’ as possible for games like football and rugby.
As well as this, colours, textures, patterns and graphics should be used to support imaginative and creative play.
Children learn best when they can touch and explore an area. Therefore, play equipment must offer a tactile experience for children. This can be achieved with play equipment at various heights to allow for different reach ranges.
Equipment should also be accessible to children using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs. Therefore, surfaces should be flush where possible and openings wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or mobility aid.
Routes that navigate the playground should also be accessible for wheelchair users (both adults and children), prams and buggies. They should also offer enough space for children to play and move around without impeding each other. Coloured tarmac should be clearly marked, so that young children who haven’t yet developed reading skills can still understand.
Most importantly, entrances, gates, exits and busy routes should all be wide enough for use by everyone, regardless of ability. These key areas should also be flat with minimal variations in heights to allow for access by all.
NatraTex Colour & Accessible Playgrounds
NatraTex Colour is the perfect choice for surfacing in playgrounds. Working in tandem with another high impact surfacing suitable for use under play equipment, the different hues of NatraTex Colour can be used to support imaginative and creative play. While its low maintenance nature and high grip finish lend themselves to playground environments and MUGAs alike.
An example of this is the application of NatraTex Colour Blue, Green and NatraTex Cotswold at the Marjory Kinnon School in Feltham. This combination creates a vibrant and aesthetically pleasing space that is appealing to children. Furthermore, the area can now be used for a range of activities throughout the year. The different colours, too, demarcate sections of the playground, making a multifunctional space suitable for all age groups.
To find out more about how NatraTex Colour has been used in schools, playgrounds, and multi-use games areas, contact us today. Alternatively, you can request a free sample of any of our NatraTex products here on our website. If you are considering using NatraTex for your upcoming projects, we also offer CPD sessions to learn more about these products from the BituChem Group. Contact us today to book yours!