It is fair to say that disabled children have significantly fewer opportunities to access play settings and activities than their non-disabled peers. Disability shouldn’t be mistaken as a child’s inability to experience the play environment because of limitations caused by their disability.
It is of utmost importance that all children have equal access to play, which is fundamental to childhood. The aim of an inclusive playground is to allow every child to play, exercise and enjoy the outdoors equally.
Through the experience of inclusive play in which they feel included and supported, children gain many benefits including:
A Truer Understanding of the World
Inclusive play helps to build a child’s social awareness of others by understanding the similarities and differences between people. With this the appreciation of diversity emerges and the barriers to exclusion, both physical and social disappear.
Development of attitudes
It is essential to build a child’s self-confidence and social consciousness of others. Inclusive play helps a child learn respect for others’ needs and desires while also learning to express their own feelings and emotions without the fear of rejection or disapproval. It also encourages the development of attitudes such as tolerance, appreciation of differences, acceptance of perspectives and perceptions other than their own.
A Richer Play Environment
Inclusive play creates a diverse play environment with greater exposure and better opportunities for communication, building relationships and gaining a greater sense of connectedness and understanding. Inclusive play provokes the use of different languages, methods of communication, a wider range and use of play materials.
A Positive Sense of Self
The opportunity to play freely also develops confidence, self-esteem and positive reinforcement of their sense of identity. It presents a great opportunity to communicate unconditional love and approval while encouraging cooperative choices and shared interactions. Children will also develop pride in their accomplishments as they learn to interact with others.
Experiences linked to curricular goals
Playing in an inclusive environment augments social and emotional development, language development, knowledge and understanding of the world and citizenship. Children become confident in their own choices and instincts as they develop good decision-making skills.
Sense of Belonging
Another great thing about inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities is that that they foster connections between parents and families through play at each other’s homes and encounters in community play spaces. These positive social relationships, friendships, development and learning for children help them reach their full potential.
With the help of inclusive environments, children of all abilities can be provided with equal access and opportunity to play together allowing them to feel nurtured, encouraged, respected, and active during play, both physically and socially, therefore, creating a sense of community among all children.