Using Playground Equipment to Meet Sensory Needs

Categories: Resources | Sensory
When you think about meeting the sensory needs of your students, it can initially seem overwhelming.  You may feel like you need to purchase a lot of really expensive things or request a special sensory room.  The good news is, that is not necessarily the case!  There are so many ways to creatively meet sensory needs throughout the school day using resources and spaces you already have. If you are lucky enough to have access to a playground at your school, it can provide so many amazing sensory opportunities, especially for those students who seek more sensory input than others.  Today, let’s take a look at some of the most common pieces of playground equipment and how they can benefit students from a sensory perspective.

Swings

The swings are a fabulous and versatile piece of equipment.  Swings that go back and forth in a linear fashion tend to provide calming sensory input.  Therefore, swinging can be a very regulating activity for many students.  Additionally students can try pumping their legs or even swinging on their stomachs for varied sensory input.  A great heavy work activity is pushing a friend on a swing!

Slides

Slides are another amazing piece of equipment.  Typically there is climbing involved to get to the top of the slide which is a great activity.  Sliding down the slide provides vestibular input that many students crave. Some slides have interesting tactile components, such as a roller slide. Now, I know the school rule is typically to go DOWN the slide, but there are so many benefits to climbing UP the slide!  It is an excellent heavy work activity that also works on strength, coordination, and motor planning.

Seesaw

A seesaw is a great piece of equipment for sensory input.  Students need to bend their knees and push in order to make the equipment move, which is a great heavy work activity.  The up and down motion provides nice vestibular input.  There is also a social component as well, since a seesaw usually needs two people!

Climbing Structures

You will see so many kinds of climbing structures and they all will have great benefits!  Climbing is an excellent activity that targets the proprioceptive and vestibular sensory systems, as well as strength, coordination and motor planning.  Some playgrounds have more static equipment (think the big plastic pieces that do not move) and others have more dynamic equipment (think ropes courses).  The climbing equipment that does not move may be better for students who have some gravitational insecurity, but the more dynamic pieces of equipment can provide a lot more movement opportunities while climbing on them.

Tunnels

Crawling through a tunnel is another great proprioceptive and vestibular sensory activity.  However, a tunnel can also provide a quieter space for a student who may be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the playground.

Equipment that Spins

Spinning is a more alerting sensory activity.  Some students love to spin, and playground equipment can give them the chance to do it in a safe way. I try to encourage students to spin equally in both directions. Some people have strong reactions to spinning, so be sure to supervise your students during these activities.

Every playground is a little different but they all provide so many amazing sensory opportunities!  What is your favorite thing about the playground?

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