September 09, 2019

Inclusive Playgrounds 101: Be Active

Active Play for All

This is the sixth post in a seven-part series on inclusive playground design. (View all posts in this series). Can’t wait for all seven parts? Request a copy of Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design® and put research into action.


Physical development is one of five key developmental domains to consider when designing an inclusive playground. An active, inclusive playground is a place where gross and fine motor skills can be enhanced while children are at play. Motor skills allow children to make purposeful movements and learn the physical characteristics of self and the environment. Gross motor development involves the large muscle groups, such as those in the trunk and legs. Gross motor skills are used in walking, climbing, jumping, etc., and give way to more complex movements that promote physical activity such as biking, dancing, swinging, etc. Fine motor development involves small muscle groups, such as those found in the fingers and tongue. Fine motor skills are used to grasp and manipulate objects and are critical to developing hand-eye coordination and speech.



A playground designed to address the physical development of all children may include accessible surfacing, pathways for wheeled-toy play, play panels which help children develop fine motor skills, opportunities for swinging, sliding, spinning, balancing and other activities along graduated levels of challenge. To ensure everyone can enjoy the play space and be active to the greatest extent possible, we consider three specific elements in the design of an inclusive playground:


Provide accommodations such as high backs and molded seats to help children maintain a neutral body position during movement experiences.

Many children need additional trunk support when using motion play activities, such as whirls or swings. Include play products that offer molded seats that are comfortable and accommodating for a wide range of ages and body types. Also provide products that feature high backs or side rails to help children maintain an upright position during play. These accommodations help children of all abilities to play together. 

Molded seats with a high back make this zip track ride more inclusive for children of all abilities


Include equitable alternatives to common play experiences, such as upper body activities.

All children love to move, climb and explore a playground. Make sure everyone is able to share in the experience and receive the benefits of play with products that address the physical needs of all children and provides healthy physical activity. For example, a roller table is a freestanding activity that helps develop upper body strength as children pull themselves along the rollers. Therapeutic rings at an accessible height offer an advanced upper body activity and accommodates a wider range of users.

A roller table is an inclusive activity that promotes upper body strength in children of all abilities


Design the play environment to include balanced play experiences that promote social inclusion and encourage cooperation.

Cooperative play activities reinforce positive interactions between children as they work together to drive the action or engage in the activity. Some examples include SeeSaws, rocking events and objects that require children to turn or rotate an item together. Provide accessible versions of these activities so everyone can join in the fun and participate together.


Activities like the Rock N Raft promote cooperative, social play for everyone

Here’s the Bottom Line: An efficient play environment designed to promote active play improves the overall health and well-being of a community. With thoughtful design based on research and best practices, you can create a fun and active place where children and families can “Be Active” more often and for longer periods of time.

To learn more about the seven principles of inclusive playground design request a copy of the complete Me2 guidebook or contact a GameTime representative in your neighborhood to explore inclusive play options for your community.