Designing Sensory Play Experiences – Part 1
In 2013 a study on children’s play equipment preferences within commercial playgrounds revealed three things: children love swings, spinning, and climbing! As a result, when landscape architects design a playground for a school, council, or recreational environment, it’s important to include plenty of swings, carousels, and climbing structures for all ages, capabilities, and levels of development. Children thrive when they’re given sensory play experiences that test their boundaries, agility, and sense of fun. Let’s look at swinging, spinning, and climbing in more depth, along with our best playground equipment to match.
Swinging Playground Equipment
Swinging connects us to our most archaic style of movement – moving through the trees like monkeys! We may be living in urban jungles these days, but children still love the rhythmic motion of swaying to and fro. It’s thought that swinging is linked to pre-birth motion in the womb, and deeply calming as a result. What we know for sure is that swinging stimulates the vestibular system of the inner ear and our sensory experience of movement (think of the whooshing sound in your ears whenever you experience gravity, such as in an elevator). Activating the vestibular system develops our sense of balance and fine motor skills like grip strength and hand, eye and arm coordination. Importantly, swinging provides stress relief, which is especially beneficial for children with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or social anxiety.
In the past, playgrounds had simple swing sets that only older children could use. Nowadays we have swing sets for all ages and abilities. While the traditional swing is still a staple of most playgrounds, nest swings, pendulum swings, disability-friendly swings and hammock swings are exciting options that attract more diverse parents, carers and kids into your playground. Our nest swings are especially popular because children of all ages and abilities can sit or lie in the nest to experience motion in every direction. At adventure+ we supply everything required – from the nest and seat, the chains, the frame and all other components.
Spinning Playground Equipment
The vestibular, auditory, and visual senses all work together when a child spins, allowing the child to develop their neural network. Spinning also gives children enhanced bodily awareness and an understanding of their centre of balance, which helps them coordinate both sides of their body. If you’ve ever had to suddenly stop after spinning you’ll understand how spinning develops sure footedness, by testing and refining all of our senses. Surprisingly, there’s also a link between spinning and the ability to read. The vestibular system controls gaze stabilisation and impulse control, which in turn allows a child to follow a sentence across the page. The simple action of spinning at play has long-lasting learning benefits.
While traditional carousels are much loved, we now have a wide range of spinner play equipment to choose from. Our Spinpoint Dish, ‘Rotanet’ climbing carousels, multi-person G-Force carousel along with several inclusive spinner designs are just some of the options we have available to make your playground a more inviting space.
Climbing Playground Equipment
Anyone who has watched children climb a tree, balance on a garden wall or scale a fence knows that kids love to climb. Climbing works almost every muscle in their bodies, tests their upper and lower body strength, and builds their coordination and balance. Climbing is an ideal problem solving activity, because children need to use their bodies and minds together to find their way up and over. The climbing action tests their sense of touch and the feedback loop from touch to cognitive planning that develops their spatial awareness and sense of direction. Through climbing, children challenge themselves and experience achievement. Just think of the thrill you feel when you reach the summit of a mountain! Kids also need to learn to trust their sense of touch (grip, hold and step) to explore the world around them.
Climbing towers and rope towers have really come into their own in recent years, stretching to greater and greater heights, with exciting features and themes, such as our Space Explorer rocket tower with a slide from the top, spider web inspired rope structures that can be climbed in every direction, and our race-track inspired Orbit climbing structure for ultimate monkeying around. Even smaller playgrounds can include climbing equipment, such as by adding our climbing cube with a different challenge on every side.