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How to Prepare a Kids Recreational Area for Invisible Disabilities

Recreational areas for kids are often designed in a way for easy access and for recreation purposes. However, it can be tough to determine the needs of kids living with invisible disabilities. That’s because at first glance these kids wouldn’t show any signs of disability.

As the name suggests, invisible disabilities are physical, mental, or neurological conditions that aren’t visible but limit a person’s movement, senses, or activities of daily living. For instance, if you see a child in a wheelchair, it’s evident that they are physically challenged and require special attention. On the other hand, a disability like sensory processing disorder isn’t immediately apparent, making it challenging to determine whether or not the kid needs assistance.

So, how can you design a recreational area that’s safe for all kids, including the ones with invisible disabilities?

Focus on Inclusiveness

Whether living with a disability or not, playtime is critical for all kids. It’s their time to form social bonds, develop motor and sensory skills, explore their surroundings, and gain a feeling of independence. Moreover, participating in games and social activities help boost their self-esteem.

Make sure the recreational area is inclusive, allowing kids to explore their identities and gain a sense of freedom. Invest in toys and equipment that are open for all to enjoy without discrimination against kids with neurological or physical conditions.

Many schools, kids’ play gyms, and recreational centers are opening up to the concept of sensory-rich play areas, allowing kids with diverse abilities to grow together. Inclusiveness when designing a recreational area for kids doesn’t have to be complicated. Pay attention to the below-mentioned points to offer a combination of equally-delightful experiences for each kid.

– Open access to a range of sensory experiences for kids of varying abilities. Kids with sensory processing disorders may find it difficult to socialize or communicate without adequate support.

Sensory play can help them feel included and help them have new experiences. That’s the reason most play areas have play equipment that stimulates kids’ sensory systems. For instance, musical instruments are excellent for stimulating their sense of hearing.

Include the below-mentioned pieces of equipment to offer a novel sensory experience for all kids.

– Test equipment before buying. Take a close look at the equipment with respect to the design of your recreational area and the possible issues a kid could face when using it. If needed, consult an inclusive design expert who specializes in the subject.

– Include mental health practitioners, pediatricians, and families of kids with disabilities when identifying the best inclusive design approaches for the recreational area.

Offer Areas for Socializing and Seclusion

Kids with invisible disabilities have varied needs. When designing a recreational it’s wise to consider the following points.

Plan areas for socializing – Include play equipment that encourages cooperative play. For instance, parallel-play equipment like swings and see-saws allow multiple kids to play while watching and conversing.

Offer opportunities for seclusion – It is common for kids with invisible disabilities to experience a moment of sensory overload. In such situations, offering a secluded area (within the sightline of adults) can prove to be a retreat, allowing the kid to take a break and recalibrate.

For instance, a multi-play structure or a playhouse can make a child feel secluded and secure while giving them the freedom to enter or exit on their own terms.

Take Special Care When Designing Outdoor Play Areas

Designing an outdoor recreational area that’s fun and safe for children with invisible disabilities isn’t an easy task. Regardless of their age or ability, kids outdoors are expected to play on hopscotch grids, monkey bars, swings, and roundabouts. That sounds fun but may also pose a risk to the child’s safety, especially the ones with invisible disabilities.

Thus, it’s critical to take extra care when designing this space, such that the kids have an enjoyable playtime and are injury-free and safe. Remember, playtime is when the child is not just having fun but also learning to handle themselves and recognizing their boundaries.

Here are a few tips you should consider.

– Invest in good-quality play equipment that offers enough challenges to kids but is safe and supportive with grips at various places.

– Nature-inspired recreational areas are fun.

– Pay attention to elements that uphold inclusiveness and allow kids to move throughout the recreational area safely and independently. For instance, look at how you can improve elements like the surfacing, transfer platforms, and the width of the routes.

– Choose a suitable playground flooring to reduce the risk of injury from falls. A high-quality rubber flooring, sand, or artificial grass flooring is highly recommended for kids’ recreational areas. Consult an outdoor surfacing expert who can suggest the best flooring that improves the play value, access, and aesthetics while reducing the severity of injury from falls.

– Get rid of faulty play equipment. Check all the equipment in the area for possible hazards and get rid of the ones that are old or craggy or have nasty edges.

Add a Touch of Adventure

Just because kids with invisible disabilities are not unable to perform certain tasks without supervision, doesn’t mean they lack the spirit for adventure or exploration. Every kid enjoys taking up challenges! It’s what feeds their self-esteem and confidence.

Include plenty of opportunities for these kids to use their imaginations, explore sensory play, movement, balance, and fine motor skills. Exploratory play like open sand and water play bodies or a music corner with a variety of musical instruments can encourage kids with diverse abilities to enjoy the play area without feeling limited by their physical or neurological constraints.

Summing Up

Planning a recreational area for kids with invisible disabilities requires creatively bringing together three critical elements, improved play value, safety, and inclusiveness. Use the tips shared above to create the perfect recreational area for kids that stimulates their senses and contributes to their overall well being.

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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