Tips & Guides, Sensory Play

Playground Equipment For Children With Special Educational Needs

Children playing in a wooden pirate ship outdoors at school

Good quality playtime is essential for children’s overall development. However, this can be a sensory overload for a child with learning disabilities. According to a recent study on Special educational needs in England, with over 1,300,000 children that suffer from special educational needs (SEN), many schools don’t have the appropriate outdoor playground equipment to support their learning and development entirely.

In this article, we will explain why having playground equipment for children with special educational needs at your school or nursery is vital and take you through the numerous benefits both for your students and your institution. 

Why Should You Have Playground Equipment For Children With Special Educational Needs  

Children with learning disabilities can struggle with social interaction, communication, and imagination. This can drastically affect their ability to form meaningful friendships, therefore making them struggle to engage in play with their peers.

It is important for children with learning disabilities to enjoy play within an environment in which they feel safe and supported. Access to activities and toys that stimulate the use of the most important skills, such as concentration, matching, sorting, and identifying different sizes and shapes, are key! Whatever these children are presented with, the outcome must be motivating and rewarding to encourage effective interaction and to achieve the desired learning outcomes. 

Having access to a wide range of children’s playground equipment can help to practice the skills learned in new and fun ways, and the repetition of any play activities should be encouraged. Sensory play is a type of play that stimulates the seven senses, including smell, touch, sight, taste, sound, and the two lesser-known senses, which are vestibular or balance, and proprioceptive or relation of individual body parts to the rest of the body. 

Sensory play encourages exploration and investigation, helping to create stronger connections and relationships between senses within the brain. Children with special needs require extra help to process and interpret the world around them, the reason why the importance of sensory play is magnified. We have some amazing articles on What Is Sensory Play and The Benefits Of Water Play For Children packed with valuable information for you to read.

Benefits Of Sensory Activities For Children With Autism And Other Disabilities

Little boy sitting on a bridge with his teddy bear

There are numerous benefits for children with autism and other disabilities to engage in sensory play and sensory activities, including:

Social Skills

Research funded by Autism Speaks determined that children who engaged in sensory play every day for ten weeks were less likely to need assistance in social situations and self-care than those who didn’t engage. Being a part of any type of sensory play within a positive environment encourages interaction between children and the building of new relationships.

It also encourages them to learn how to share, investigate, and work together effectively to solve problems with their peers. Play can also promote children to adapt to new situations and differentiate between scenarios so that they can adjust their behavior accordingly.

Language Skills

Sensory activities can help children express their feelings and share new ideas with their friends. Trying to describe a feeling or an experience helps with the development of a child’s understanding of words and their meaning.

The more children are open, honest, and encouraged to share their feelings, the more likely they will voice their feelings and opinions in a healthy way. Using prompts and asking open-ended questions about their experience will encourage this behavior, encouraging them to further develop and enrich their vocabulary.

Motor Skills And Coordination

It is well known that you can improve child development with sensory playground equipment, as sensory play incorporates a lot of physical activity, and it is normal for a child with autism to struggle with their movement. This will only worsen over time with a lack of physical activity, and it can be detrimental to developing their vital motor skills.

Physical play encourages the development of:

  • Fine motor skills, such as the movement of the wrists, hands, fingers, feet, and toes through activities such as picking up objects and writing
  • Gross motor skills, such as the coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts through activities such as running, jumping, sliding, swimming, catching, throwing, and kicking

In case you want to find out more about our sensory playground equipment and how it could benefit your students, check out our Buyer’s Guide To Sensory Play Equipment.

Problem Solving Skills

Children can develop their decision-making and problem-solving skills during play when experimenting with different objects, finding solutions to solve obstacles, and working as a team with their peers. This can also help them overcome any reservations surrounding social interaction, which is one of the most difficult challenges children with disabilities have to face.

Active Learning

Sensory play often involves using multiple senses at the same time. The more senses a child uses during an activity, the more likely they are to remember what happened, thus strengthening their cognitive skills. Certain smells, tastes, sounds, and sights can be linked with memory and improve the overall recall of information.

Introducing children to sensory play from a young age can help build cognitive pathways in their brain, strengthening the development of feelings and behaviors, such as rationality and empathy. However, as a teacher, you should be fully aware of the limitations of your students, as in some cases, overstimulation can lead to seizures and fits.

Self-Regulation

Certain activities can have a therapeutic element, especially when playing with children’s outdoor playground equipment as it helps to calm down feelings of frustration and confusion when a child becomes overwhelmed or unfocused. Incorporating sensory play activities can help recognize these feelings whilst offering children the much-needed time to refocus and start again.

The development of self-control is also paramount, as kids learn how to follow instructions and respect the rules and boundaries during sensory play.

How Can Red Monkey Play Help You?

We understand that making your playground equipment as inclusive as possible is becoming more and more important, however, it can be a daunting task. If you’re looking to implement playground equipment for children with special educational needs within your school, then our team at Red Monkey Play will be more than happy to help you!

Contact us either via email at hello@redmonkeyplay.co.uk or call our Leicester office on 0116 366 9922 to book a FREE consultation to create the appropriate outdoor playground that will support your student’s learning, play, and development in the best way possible.

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