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Playground Design Ideas for Different Play Types

Different types of play

Play is about a lot more than swings, roundabouts and slides – fun as those things are! Researchers have identified as many as 16 different types of play that kids engage in – ranging from active rough-and-tumble and exploratory play to socio-dramatic play, deep play and more.

Playgrounds often focus on active play. However, playground design experts recommend that designers incorporate opportunities for a variety of play styles. As well as active play, this includes sensory, imaginative and social types of play.

Here’s how to make this happen.

Active play

Active play is all about kids using their bodies in energetic, physical ways. This includes running, jumping, bouncing, swinging, spinning and many other activities. Through active play, kids learn about their bodies and how to use them. Active play can allow kids to improve their motor skills, build their strength, fitness and confidence, and take risks within safe limits.

Play equipment for active play includes slides, swings, gyms, rope structures, spring rockers, firemen poles, trampolines, flying foxes and climbing structures.

With a decline in physical activity and muscular strength among our younger generation, active play is more important than ever.

The Embleton Chase Reserve playground equipment showcases active play. Incorporating hanging, climbing and balancing activities provides a workout for every part of the body.

Embleton Chase Playground
Embleton Chase Playground

Embleton Chase Playground

Sensory play

Sensory play lets children explore their world and make sense of it. It also stimulates kids’ minds and is essential for their brain development.

To facilitate sensory play, children need different textures, smells, colours, angles and sounds. Equipment for this type of play includes talking tubes, auditory equipment (e.g. music or sound panels), activity panels with objects of varying sizes, shapes, textures and colours, and visual elements such as mirror panels and bubble panels.

Natural elements such as flowers, trees and rocks incorporated into a playground can also provide opportunities for sensory play.

The Millars Landing Streamrail Playground design has a diverse range of play types. A range of materials used, including grass, sand, timber and steel help children explore and understand their surroundings. The train playground and large play tower represent a train theme to promote imaginative play.

Millars Landing Streamrail Playground
Millars Landing Streamrail Playground

Imaginative play

Children love to use their imaginations. Imaginative play allows them to explore their environment and to relate to the adult world. Dress-ups, make believe, pretend play and manipulative play (building, digging, moulding and so on) are all types of imaginative play.

There are many aspects to this type of play – such as where kids create a car or boat and pretend to drive it, or where a structure becomes a house, castle or a shop and kids act out various roles within them.

Playground equipment for imaginative play can include sand boxes, cubbies, diggers, telescopes, towers and themed play units.

Social play

Through social play, kids learn how to share, take turns, negotiate, talk and listen, reason, develop values and agree on ‘rules’ to follow.

Nest swings, cubbies, tunnels and special ‘meeting places’ can all be great for facilitating social types of play.

The junior play area at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar is a great example of how imaginative and social play can be achieved. Cubbies encourage playing together, but also provide a space for children to play quietly which can be important to some children.

Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar Junior Area
Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar Junior Area

Need some assistance?

If you would like to find out more about designing playgrounds that encourage different types of play, contact our team for a no-obligation discussion.

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