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The Importance of Inclusive Play

Children being able to play, use their imagination and explore the world around them is a vital part of growing up. Disabled children should be given the same opportunities to play as non Disabled children, and we should be creating an inclusive society where all children can play together. This Playday, the national day for play, will be held on Wednesday 2nd August and celebrate our children’s right to play whilst campaigning for the importance of play in children’s lives. 

Play is vital for the wellbeing and development of children, on cognitive, physical, social and emotional levels. It can help in developing a range of skills, including confidence, self esteem, resilience, independence and how to cope with challenging situations. All children deserve to feel the benefits of play, but for this to happen play environments need to be inclusive of everyone. That means ‘[making] everyone – children and adults of all ages – feel welcome and comfortable in the space, with a wide range of opportunities and experiences for all abilities’,This is made really clear as part of the Children’s Play Policy Forum and UK Play Safety Forum.

Every child should have the time, freedom and space to play both indoors and outdoors throughout their childhood. Discover why inclusive play is important and how you can get involved in Play Day this year!

What is the difference between inclusive play and accessible play? 

Inclusive and accessible might seem similar, but there are some important differences. The UK Play Safety Forum and Children’s Play Policy Forum define inclusive vs accessible play spaces as:

  • An Accessible Play Space is a space which is barrier-free, allows users access to move around the space and offers participation opportunities for a range of differing abilities. Not every child of every ability will be able to actively use everything within an accessible play space.
  • An Inclusive Play Space provides a barrier-free environment, with supporting infrastructure, which meets the wide and varying play needs of every child. Disabled children and non-disabled children will enjoy high levels of participation opportunities, equally rich in play value.

So, whilst a play environment like an outdoor playground or creative play session might be accessible, that does not necessarily mean it is inclusive. Being inclusive is about meeting the wide and varied needs of all children, and creating spaces that are fully welcoming of all abilities so that all children can play together equally. This might mean things like making sure that parents, carers and children can understand the layout and facilities of the space before arriving, making sure that accessible transport links are available and locating inclusive play equipment across the whole space not in a separated area. Not every feature in the play area needs to be accessible to all children, but there needs to be enough range, variety and choice for all.

Unfortunately, a lot of play spaces are not as inclusive as they could be. A review of inclusive play in Scotland revealed that Disabled and disadvantaged children and young people face multiple barriers to being able to play at home, at nursery, school, early learning and childcare and in the community, as part of their everyday lives. Play spaces might be accessible, but that doesn’t mean they are inclusive of all Disabled and non-Disabled children. Having a separate, segregated area or activities for Disabled children is not inclusive. However, the local authorities or organisations that provide these play spaces can make small adjustments to create more inclusive and welcoming environments, and there are a number of local organisations that do provide inclusive activities!

The benefits of inclusive play

Every child should be able to play as they choose in their neighbourhoods, play provisions, school and childcare. Play brings out the best in children, and allows them to use their imagination, build their confidence, interact with others and explore their curiosity. Some of the many benefits of inclusive play include:

  • Every child is equal in inclusive play. This removes stigmas and separation between Disabled and non-Disabled from an early age, helping mindsets change and society progress in a positive way!
  • Children become more independent, confident and develop different ways to communicate. It can help non Disabled children become more open to new people and different situations too.
  • Outdoor play alleviates stress, improves mood and boosts wellbeing. It helps children be physically active, engage with the natural world and have fun!
  • For sensory impaired children, play can strengthen their other senses and ways to interact with the world. Calming spaces can also help neurodivergent children find comfort, and sensory play helps children develop fine motor skills as they learn how their bodies work.
  • Play helps children learn about risk in a safe supportive environment, as well as adjust to change and build resilience.
  • It helps children develop social and empathy skills, make friends and form connections!

As you can see, children playing together, regardless of their ability, is so beneficial for everyone involved. So how can you take part in inclusive play opportunities this summer?

Playday 2023

At WECIL we’re working with a number of Disability and Play providers this Playday to celebrate inclusive play. This year’s theme is ‘playing on a shoestring – making every day an adventure’. You don’t need lots of expensive equipment or toys to play, and we are focusing on everyday low or no-cost play activities for children to enjoy at home and in the community. It is often the simplest and free things that can be the most rewarding!

Playday started in 1986 after the threat of cuts to school-based play centres and playgrounds in London. A group of playworkers, Mick Conway, Paul Bonel and Kim Holdaway, held a meeting to discuss what could be done, and so the idea of having a day for play was born. Playday has grown from a few events in 1987 to a national campaign in 1991, and is not the biggest celebration of children’s play in the UK. It provides an opportunity for the play sector to ‘raise awareness about the importance of play in children’s lives, and show decision-makers that cutting local play services will have devastating effects on children, families and whole communities’. Now is more important than ever to stand up for the importance of play for children! 

This is the second year that Disability providers will be involved in Playday to make sure there are quiet and inclusive activities that all children can enjoy. We want to make Playday as inclusive as possible, and will be working with Khaas, FACE and Sense for our activities in the city of Bristol. It will be a time to have fun, meet other families in the local community, and discover how play can be inclusive, accessible and low cost! Take a look here to see what’s going on in the South West this year – there’s a whole range of activities, from arts and crafts to sports, circus and forest school.

Other activities

As well as coming to Playday this August, make sure to check out these other play activities and playgrounds across the city that offer a range of holiday and term time play sessions. Or if you’re not local to Bristol, discover Playday events near you!

See you at Playday!

So, why not come to Playday this August! Play providers are embracing inclusive play more and more so that all children can play together and embrace the benefits of inclusive play. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about the events coming up!

Redrow Summer of Play event

Open to the public: yes

Date/Time:  29/07/2023 10am – 5pm

Venue: 4 Fort Road, Okehampton, Devon, EX20 1GJ

Contact: Redrow

Email: [email protected]

To celebrate national Playday on 2nd August we’re running a play event on Saturday 29th July from 10am to 5pm. Bring your children along for lots of summer fun, free play packs and the opportunity to try some new games, all while you enjoy the refreshments.

Playday Bristol – North – Blaise Castle

Date/Time:  02/08/2023 11am – 3pm

Venue: Blaise Castle, Henbury Road, Bristol, BS10 7QS

Contact: Children’s Scrapstore

Email: [email protected]

Open to the public: yes

A free, fun filled session of Arts & crafts, Loose parts play, Sensory activities, Sports and more. We also have the Police attending to mark bikes for security, so please bring your bikes along. We will be based between the play area and museum.

Play Day Bristol – South – The Hideout, Teyfant Road

Date/Time:  02/08/2023 11am – 3pm

Venue: The Hideout, Teyfant Road, Bristol, BS13 0RF

Contact: LPW – Learning Partnership West

Open to the public: yes

Free family event with activities:
• Mask-making making animal masks using recycled materials
• Circus based fun: slackline, learn to use the diablo and juggling
• Forest School
• Mural painting with OTR
• Sports bonanza
• Festival face paint
• Creative storytelling

Play Day Bristol – East Central – St Agnes Park **NEW SITE**

Date/Time:  02/08/2023 11am – 3pm

Venue: St Agnes Park, Montpelier, Bristol, BS2 9QJ

Open to the public: yes

Free family activities. We will have Storytelling, Large games, Sports and Arts & Crafts available for all to attend. Please note this is at a new site

Sedgemoor Playday

Date/Time:  02/08/2023 10:00-15:00

Venue: Apex Park

Address: Highbridge

Contact: Rosie Pike

Email: [email protected]

Open to the public: yes

It is a FREE event for children who must be accompanied by an adult. There are over 45 activities. It is an outside event.

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