7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design
Principle 1: Be Fair
The play environment provides social justice by being equitable and usable by children of
all abilities so they can enjoy their right to play.
a. Provide appropriate surfacing and site design for physical access into and throughout the play environment
so children can actively engage in social and physical play activities.
b. Offer equitable opportunities for everyone to participate in a variety of developmentally appropriate
forms of play.
c. Promote an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance by providing integrated activities
throughout the play environment that encourage exploration, problem solving and discovery.
Play environments designed to be fair allow everyone to participate equitably and as independently as
possible with their siblings, friends, neighbors, caregivers, and family members.
Principle 2: Be Included
The play environment supports the participation of individuals with diverse
abilities in social and physical activities for inclusive, multigenerational
a. Organize the play environment to provide various types (physical, social, sensorimotor,
constructive, etc.) and forms (autonomous, parallel, cooperative,
etc.) of play so there is something fun for everyone.
b. Provide a balanced variety and a continuum of developmentally appropriate
physical and social activities, throughout the play environment, which are dynamic
and accommodate individuals’ diverse abilities.
c. Provide choices in method of participation or use.
d. Provide meaningful opportunities for inclusive, multigenerational play.
Play environments designed to be socially and physically inclusive provide everyone
the opportunity to participate in the play environment more independently and equally
with their siblings, friends, neighbors and family members so they can be included in
Principle 3: Be Smart
The play environment is easy to understand, allowing individuals to be successful
and gain confidence through play.
a. Be consistent with the individual’s expectations, intuition, and developmental play behaviors.
b. Provide behavior cues and sensory feedback for participation.
c. Avoid unnecessary complexity so individuals can successfully participate in play.
Play environments designed to be understandable, intuitive, and developmentally appropriate
provide opportunities for everyone to discover and demonstrate that they are smart, capable,
able to take risks, and succeed.
Principle 4: Be Independent
The play environment allows children to effectively explore and participate in
play at their own level.
a. Design the play environment with a variety of multi-sensory features that are organized
to provide meaningful cues.
b. Provide intentional multi-sensory (auditory, visual, tactile) stimuli through a variety
of play activities.
c. Offer opportunities for children of all abilities to access and engage in the play environment
as independently as possible.
Play environments which communicate and reinforce information in multiple sensory
modes support the independent participation of everyone in play.
Principle 5: Be Safe
The play environment addresses current safety standards while providing
developmental opportunities needed for exploration and challenge.
a. Provide safer play activities and environments, through graduated levels of challenge,
that allow children to explore, interact, and experience developmentally
b. Support children’s emotional feelings of security so they are more likely to engage
c. Accommodate for comfortable supervision and ongoing maintenance.
Safer play environments that address physical, social, and emotional needs allow children
of all abilities to develop their skills through fun and challenging play opportunities
and to take developmentally appropriate risks.
Principle 6: Be Active
The play environment supports various degrees of physical and social
participation in play while minimizing unnecessary fatigue.
a. Allow individuals to maintain neutral body position so they can actively
sustain their engagement in physical and social play.
b. Include play activities that require reasonable operating forces and integrate
alternatives to sustained physical effort or repetitive actions.
c. Provide for a range of developmental opportunities for challenge to accommodate
children’s diverse physical characteristics.
d. Offer balanced opportunities for social play throughout the play environment,
by providing a variety of play activities at the ground level and under
Play environments designed to offer various degrees of challenge and alternatives
to extraneous, sustained physical effort allow everyone to participate more
actively in stimulating physical and social play.
Principle 7: Be Comfortable
The play environment is usable for individuals with sensory needs, diverse body size, posture,
mobility, and motor control.
a. Provide play activities with comfortable approach and reach for a seated or standing
b. Accommodate variations in gross and fine motor control for manipulation of play activities.
c. Provide comfortable space for movement throughout the play environment for individuals
with assistive devices and/or personal assistance.
d. Provide a range of environmental conditions, like shade, to accommodate children’s
diverse comfort characteristics.
Play environments designed for the comfortable use and movement of individuals with diverse
abilities allow everyone to participate in play more independently and equally with
their siblings, friends, and neighbors.