Sensory play is an important part of infusing accessibility throughout the entire design of your playground. Sensory play involves any activities that engage the five senses. Kids love it when they can touch, hear and see amazing things at the playground!

As playground designers, we want to ensure our playgrounds are open to every child. Sensory play is essential to keeping every child comfortable and engaged at the playground. The sensory systems in the body help kids to coordinate their movements and regulate their behavior. Incorporating sensory play into your playground is essential for meeting every child’s developmental needs. Adding elements that engage the senses is easier than it seems! Keep reading to learn how and why to incorporate sensory play into your playground.

kid playing with sensory panel


Meet the Needs of Every Child

All children benefit from sensory play, but these types of experiences have special advantages for kids with disabilities. Inclusive play equipment includes swings and spinners that stimulate kids’ proprioceptive systems. Free-standing sensory play elements are also a great way to provide a place for kids to play in smaller groups, or with a caretaker. Add a variety of free-standing pieces to create multiple isolated and exciting experiences, so there are a plethora of options for play. Equipment that incorporates music and other sounds is ideal for giving kids with visual impairments an opportunity to engage with the play space!


Stimulate Learning Through Tactile Exploration

Planning a playground should also include thinking about multiple ways to engage a kid’s sense of touch. Textured panels are one way to provide a tactile experience. You can even include playground equipment with braille, creating a more inclusive space. There are so many creative options for sensory panels. A splash pad installation is another way to give kids the chance to explore the world through touch. Feeling the cool water splash on their skin stimulates their senses. Kids can also engage in heavy work by filling up buckets and other water toys. Did you know? Children learn more when they have multiple senses engaged at once!


kid playing with sensory panels


Think About Your Playground Visitors

One of the best things about sensory play is that it only enhances the entire outdoor space, making it more welcoming to everyone. There are no negatives! Sensory equipment is colorful, bright, and designed to attract kids to visit it regularly. If anything, your biggest problem might be figuring out how to narrow down your options to the what pieces best fit the area. You can start by thinking about who will visit your playground; cater to the families in your community! School playground equipment might provide different sensory experiences compared to what you might install at a daycare for smaller children. Choosing equipment that fits the general age-range that visits the space helps to keep the experiences targeted to the park visitors’ needs.


Incorporate Varying Elements Into the Playground Design

A playground with sensory needs prioritized should have a wide range of experiences to accommodate everyone. Multiple stations gives opportunities for every child to play their way. Consider placing some spinners off to the side of a larger play structure that has educational panels, inviting kids to explore what they want to do. As you reach the end of your design planning, you can ask yourself if each sense is represented. How much play value exists in your sensory play environment? 

Sensory play is just one element of a great inclusive playground. Inclusive playgrounds are carefully designed, safe spaces. We want to help you create an incredible sensory play experiences, so we compiled the Ultimate Guide to Inclusive Playgrounds. Click below to download it for free!


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