26. January 2017

Rope Play Takes Inclus­ive Play to a New Level

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GOOGLE “INCLUSIVE PLAY” or “inclus­ive play­grounds” and you will find pages of entries – what it is, where you can find such play­grounds, who offers “inclus­ive play­ground equip­ment” and more.

Delve into this more and you will also find that many tra­di­tion­al inclus­ive play­grounds primar­ily focus on chil­dren with phys­ic­al dis­ab­il­it­ies, fail­ing to include those without phys­ic­al dis­ab­il­it­ies or those without dis­ab­il­it­ies at all.

This raises the ques­tion: what kind of inclu­sion exper­i­ence is it if it is neg­lect­ing over 90% of chil­dren who don’t have any dis­ab­il­it­ies at all to play?

There are many kinds of play­ground equip­ment that provide an “inclus­ive” exper­i­ence; how­ever, rope play equip­ment, net climbers, offer some­thing for every­one, provid­ing a more unique and ever-chal­len­ging exper­i­ence for all abil­it­ies.

So, What is Inclus­ive Play?

In gen­er­al, inclus­ive play bridges the gap between main­stream and chil­dren with spe­cial needs. Inclus­ive play enables chil­dren to bet­ter relate to one anoth­er, wheth­er they have a spe­cial need or not, open­ing their eyes to the world around them.

Inclus­ive play enables bet­ter social integ­ra­tion. Learn­ing about each other’s dif­fer­ences at a young­er age can help chil­dren feel com­fort­able around those who are dif­fer­ent.

Many chil­dren hap­pily play togeth­er without noti­cing any dif­fer­ences. Encour­aging chil­dren of all abil­it­ies to play togeth­er teaches them to treat each oth­er the same.

Access­ible or Inclus­ive Play­ground – What’s the Dif­fer­ence?

A 100% access­ible play­ground goes bey­ond ADA Com­pli­ance, enabling
every­one to get to and move all around the play­ground. Chil­dren in wheel­chairs could, for instance, reach the highest point of a struc­ture through ramps.

Being ADA Com­pli­ant Means…
All new and ren­ov­ated parks must have an access­ible path lead­ing to the play­ground with noth­ing block­ing it. A paved path and rail­ing facil­it­ates access for chil­dren with dis­ab­il­it­ies and helps meet ADA reg­u­la­tions. Integ­rat­ing a very tightly stretched rope, for example, into the play­ground may make the use of a cane for a visu­ally impaired child unne­ces­sary, free­ing the child’s hands for climb­ing.
On the oth­er hand, an inclus­ive play­ground accounts for human diversity in the com­munity. That means, it offers bar­ri­er-free attrac­tions while at the same time provid­ing chal­len­ging and fun exper­i­ences for a wide vari­ety of chil­dren – those without any dis­ab­il­it­ies along with those with ADHD, Down’s syn­drome, sens­ory pro­cessing, visu­al or hear­ing impair­ments and oth­er phys­ic­al and devel­op­ment­al issues.
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An inclus­ive play­ground offers a bal­ance of play exper­i­ences for all abil­it­ies, achiev­ing par­al­lel play as much as pos­sible. It enables chil­dren to embrace and exper­i­ence their com­mon­al­it­ies and dif­fer­ences as autonom­ously as pos­sible and in close prox­im­ity to one anoth­er.

It is not about “lev­el­ing down” the exper­i­ence nor is it neces­sary to remove every sand­box so that a child with little mobil­ity does not notice that he or she can­not run.

Inclus­ive play and access­ible play are often lumped togeth­er when access­ib­il­ity is only a small part of what makes a play­ground inclus­ive. The ramps alone are merely an access­ib­il­ity device and do not by them­selves lead to engage­ment with oth­er chil­dren. On the oth­er hand, rope play equip­ment does.

How Rope Play Adds to the Inclus­ive Exper­i­ence

Net struc­tures, or rope play equip­ment, only serve to enhance the play exper­i­ence for chil­dren, wheth­er at an access­ible or inclus­ive play­ground. The unique free play and net climb­ing con­fig­ur­a­tions chal­lenge a child’s motor skills, increase their self-con­fid­ence, stim­u­late ima­gin­at­ive play and improve muscle devel­op­ment and bal­an­cing skills.

One strength of rope play equip­ment lies in the motor chal­lenge that they pose to chil­dren along with the end­less play options. When climb­ing, a child’s pro­gress requires con­trol and focus, each step and each grip is a new decision, keep­ing it chal­len­ging and fun every time.

3-Dimen­sion­al vs. 2-Dimen­sion­al Rope Equip­ment
Two-dimen­sion­al rope struc­tures offer paths for a child to climb ver­tic­ally, hori­zont­ally or pos­sibly across on a bridge or link.
Three-dimen­sion­al rope struc­tures come in all shapes and sizes and are com­monly referred to as space nets and net climbers. Struc­tures can be quite tall or closer to the ground and full of low course chal­leng- es or a mix of both, enhan­cing the play exper­i­ence with:
  • No pre­scribed entry points
  • No spe­cif­ic paths to be fol­lowed
  • Open envir­on­ment encour­ag- ing social inter­ac­tion
One strength of rope play equip­ment lies in the motor chal­lenge that they pose to chil­dren along with the end­less play options. When climb­ing, a child’s pro­gress requires con­trol and focus, each step and each grip is a new decision, keep­ing it chal­len­ging and fun every time.

For every action, there is a reac­tion. As one child is climb­ing the rope struc­ture, it causes a reac­tion to the oth­er side of the struc­ture. For chil­dren who have lim­ited mobil­ity or do not have the strength or desire to climb the struc­ture, he or she can hold the rope and feel its move­ment, sway­ing back and forth, and be included in the play with oth­ers. Rope play equip­ment com­bines dif­fer­ent dif­fi­culty levels in a single play ele­ment. For instance, older chil­dren or young adults who like to climb can romp in sec­tions with lar­ger dis­tances between the ropes while young­er chil­dren can test their motor skills in sec­tions with nar­row­er dis­tances between the ropes. Chil­dren of all ages (and sizes) are part of the play exper­i­ence.

A 3-dimen­sion­al net struc­ture has no pre­scribed entry or exit point; it is up to the child to decide where to go in or come out. is, too, leads to end­less play options.

It is import­ant to note that play- grounds must meet all stand­ards and rules of the ADA. That means that all play equip­ment of a cer­tain size must have some type of trans­fer mod­ule, such as a trans­fer sta­tion or ramp, installed enabling a child to move (or trans­fer) from his or her wheel­chair on to the play struc­ture. The use of trans­fer mod­ules enables a child in a wheel­chair to reach play equip­ment such as a slide, provid­ing him or her with an easy climb­ing chal­lenge.

Trans­fer sta­tions and ramps are not the only viable tools to ensure access­ib­il­ity. The stand­ard leaves room for altern­ate solu­tions if they res­ult in equi­val­ent or bet­ter usage. Access nets or oth­er close to the ground nets meet that cri­ter­ia.

On most rope struc­tures the entire base peri­met­er serves as a trans­fer point to the climber. There is no need for an addi­tion­al trans­fer module/deck. Rope play equip­ment encour­ages chil­dren to leave the wheel­chair whenev­er pos­sible.

Rope play­ground equip­ment with built-in seats, such as nest swings, are very access­ible to chil­dren in wheel­chairs. The spa­cious lying area often enables chil­dren with or without dis­ab­il­it­ies to swing togeth­er, encour­aging social inter­ac­tion.

The chal­len­ging nature of a low-level rope course offers visu­ally impaired chil­dren the oppor­tun­ity to climb safely as well as allow­ing chil­dren with hear­ing impair­ments to use sign lan­guage without hindrance.

The ropes make com­mu­nic­at­ing among the chil­dren and their care­givers much easi­er. Some chil­dren may not speak or hear well. Play can be a won­der­ful tool for them to use to com­mu­nic­ate. The trans­par­ency of the net struc­ture enables chil­dren to use sign lan­guage when play­ing and elim­in­ates bar­ri­ers to visu­al super­vi­sion even on very busy play­grounds.

Rope equip­ment can incor­por­ate ele­ments that allow aud­it­ory, visu­al and tact­ile sens­ory exper­i­ences, which can cap­ture a child’s interest, espe­cially in chil­dren with a form of aut­ism spec­trum dis­order or sens­ory pro­cessing dis­order.

Net climbers provide a play space that brings togeth­er chil­dren with dif­fer­ent abil­it­ies – those that may have a visu­al or hear­ing impair­ment, phys­ic­al or men­tal dis­ab­il­ity or oth­er devel­op­ment­al chal­lenge – enabling them to exper­i­ence their pos­sib­il­it­ies and their lim­its in com­mon play, encour­aging under­stand­ing and accept­ance of one anoth­er.

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Kan­sas School Play­ground Addresses All Abil­it­ies with Rope Play

In Leaven­worth, KS, the Earl M. Lawson Ele­ment­ary is a neigh­bor­hood school with about 300 stu­dents. It is also the home for the district’s Func­tion­al Life Skills pro­gram, which includes chil­dren with some of the most severe phys­ic­al and intel­lec­tu­al dis­ab­il­it­ies. The play­ground needed to accom­mod­ate stu­dents without dis­ab­il­it­ies as well as stu­dents in wheel­chairs and those with aut­ism, sens­ory and motor needs.

The school chose to install rope play equip­ment, includ­ing an 18-foot struc­ture that provided play space upwards, enabling the chil­dren to climb and that con­nec­ted to a slide via a rope lad­der.

This play­ground has been in place for more than two years and the rope play equip­ment has added more fun and more inclus­iv­ity for all the kids.

  • The chil­dren in wheel­chairs go under the net struc­ture, look up and talk to the kids above them, increas­ing the inter­ac­tion between the kids, enabling those in wheel- chairs to be closer to oth­er chil­dren, weave in and out, chase and be part of the action.
  • The kids cre­ate their own ima­gin­at­ive play, cre­at­ing their own rules and games. Chil­dren with phys­ic­al or oth­er dis­ab­il­it­ies become part of the games by grabbing hold of the ropes or over­see­ing the music or a cer­tain part of the struc­ture. The rope struc­ture brings chil­dren of all abil­it­ies togeth­er and they seem to love the change in play.
  • The true three-dimen­sion­al net climber provides plenty of foot­ing and hand­holds for the chil­dren to safely climb up, down and side-to-side, increas­ing their con­fid­ence as they climb high­er and high­er.
  • The chil­dren are visu­ally stim­u­lated when the sun is out and shad­ows are cre­ated from the “spider web” net struc­ture, cre­at­ing lots of pat­terns on the ground. The kids have fun look­ing from dif­fer­ent angles to find squares, tri­angles and many oth­er shapes cre­ated from the rope pat­terns.
  • The ropes have been more han­di­cap access­ible, enabling chil­dren of all abil­it­ies to inter­act with each oth­er.
  • The open­ness of the rope struc­ture allows for easi­er super­vi­sion.

One stu­dent with Cereb­ral Palsy had nev­er been on a slide before. e teach- ers helped her up the ropes to the slide entrance and assisted her on the way down. Her atti­tude about recess changed dra­mat­ic­ally a er that.

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