As India’s largest supplier of playground equipment, ArihantPLAY is always looking to reach out to all children. And this includes those with special needs. We are focused on ensuring that our range of equipment such as swings, slides, benches and other outdoor play equipment appeal to children with special needs as well. And to meet this goal, we have partnered with the renowned National Institute of Design (NID).
A ‘live classroom project’ has been initiated to design a first-of-its-kind “Inclusive Playground” for BM Institute of Mental Health in collaboration with NID. ArihantPLAY is sponsoring the project while BM Institute is providing playground space for the installation.
Research was conducted on the target audience to understand their present conditions. The focus was on arriving at the shortcomings faced by children with special needs. Also, there was a need to look at their preferences and arrive at play equipment that can win their confidence and approval.
Observations were made on two different days at the institute in their classrooms and the data has been mapped and analysed leading to some key factors. A focus group discussion was also held with educators, specialists, psychiatrists and other stakeholders catering to children with special needs.
The 4 categories part of the research include:
Among the activities held was a colour swatch activity. The focus was on arriving at the colours preferred by students. Children aged between 6 and 12 were observed in their indoor play room to study how they interact with their toys.
Sixteen students aged between 6 and 18 participated in probe activities focused on sensory stimulation, tendency towards pretend play and abilities in physical play. Observations were also made when these children participated in their sports, music and dance classes.
Products developed based on research
1) Sensory-based Drawing Board
From the research, it was clear that children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) enjoyed colouring and drawing. An idea for a sensory-based product was arrived at based on this. A product was selected for inspiration and the initial design was made. The product featured an acrylic drawing surface that can be rotated and pivoted with adjustable height.
A prototype was made and shown to children at the school. The kids enjoyed the product a lot. They did some tracing and also drew on their own. The teacher pointed out that the product is really useful as most kids present there have some range of SPD.
2) Physical Play Equipment
This play equipment has been designed in such a way that it aids unstructured as well as structured physical play. It consists of abstract open-ended elements.
The height of the horizontal elements is adjustable, making the equipment accessible to children of varied age groups and physical needs. The facilitator can even create obstacle paths using the equipment. As the play potential keeps changing with the height of the elements, the possibilities are endless.
The physical play equipment aids in the following:
- Gross Motor Skills: Running and balancing
- Fine Motor Skills: Catching and throwing
- Cognitive Development: Using body language and gestures, communicating, and understanding
- Social: Emotional Development
The physical play equipment can be installed in any form as space permits. Some of the many variations are:
- Zig Zag Path
- Straight Path
- Circular Path
3) Colour Canopy
This equipment facilitates colour interaction and shadow play through rotatory motion done by pushing (characteristics similar to a merry-go-round).
The child can rotate the lower canopy by moving the bottom disc with their legs while holding the leaf handles. Alternatively, they can spin the leaf while standing in the same position. This creates a colourful shadow play on the ground.
Colour Canopy aids in the following:
- Colour Perception and Interaction
- Physical Engagements such as Pushing activities
- Social Engagement
4) Sensory Tunnel
This equipment helps kids enhance their tactile senses through variations in the base material as well as the rocking motion. It also involves sound and visual experiences. The child can crawl or walk through the tunnel while it rocks because of its form. It can be an individual unit or can be combined to form a longer passage.
We, at ArihantPLAY, are confident that the research and subsequent development of play equipment mentioned in the article will serve as a benchmark for years to come. The new equipment will serve the physical, cognitive and emotional needs of special needs children in the best way possible.