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Designing a Playground for Non-Verbal Children

There are many things to consider when designing a playground for non-verbal children. But it’s surprisingly simple to create an outdoor environment that is accessible for those who have difficulty communicating.

In this post, we’ll talk you through some design ideas and pieces of equipment that can help make outdoor play more fun and less daunting for non-verbal children. The playground is a great place to encourage alternative methods of communication.

How Being Non-Verbal Can Affect Children

Being non-verbal is usually associated with autism, but children with a number of other special needs can also find it difficult to communicate verbally. This can be frustrating as they are unable to express their needs to adults, or let other children know how they are feeling.

Children who struggle with verbal communication often find it hard to read facial expressions and body language. They can also miss certain social cues that other children pick up automatically, and may not know how to act appropriately in some situations.

There are a few ways that nurseries and schools can create a more inclusive play environment for children who have these difficulties. Keep reading to see some of our tips and ideas.

Outdoor Play Ideas for Non-Verbal Pupils

There are so many ways that outdoor play can be helpful for non-verbal pupils at nursery or school. It encourages children to engage with each other and form bonds over different games or activities they do together.

Although speaking is the most obvious way to express your needs or feelings with others, there are plenty of alternative ways to do this. Creating a design for your playground which incorporates different pieces of equipment and floor markings can be very beneficial to pupils.

Motor Communication

Motor communication is one of the most important ways that non-verbal children can learn to communicate. This typically involves pointing, tapping or picking up an object.

An example would be picking up two toys, showing them to the child and asking “Do you want to play with this one or this one?” and tapping the toy to indicate which one you’re talking about.

This then gives the child the option of pointing to or tapping the object they want to use. Games involving matching and sorting objects are great for developing motor communication and helping children understand the different items.

Expressive Art

Art is a fantastic tool for children to express themselves in a range of different ways. For non-verbal pupils, drawing the things they want to say can be very helpful. But it doesn’t just have to be drawing and painting. Other forms of art include music, acting and dancing, all of which can be great ways for kids to express their needs and feelings.

Sometimes children on the autistic spectrum don’t feel comfortable speaking to other people, but they may be able to communicate with animals or toys, even using speech. Setting up a role-play situation with stuffed animals or dolls may encourage children to use some verbal communication with these objects.

Giving children different options to express themselves with art is very important when it comes to designing your playground.

Mirror Me Games

Using a mirror on the playground can be great for kids who struggle to make direct eye contact with others. Looking at themselves or other people in a mirror can feel less intimidating and there are plenty of games you can use a mirror for.

Games like Simon Says can be played using a mirror, as well as other activities which involve copying or imitating each other’s actions. These are simple for autistic children to follow and are great for encouraging different forms of communication.

Communicating Through Play

A playground is a fantastic place for children to express themselves and learn through different play activities. It’s also a great place to teach kids about various types of communication.

Things like role play and imaginative games are great for helping children express their feelings more creatively. You can also include a number of sensory toys and pieces of equipment on the playground. Here are a few ideas for equipment and designs:

  • Sandboxes
  • Water tables
  • Chalkboards and whiteboards
  • Musical instruments
  • Sensory wall toys
  • Playground markings with letters, numbers and shapes
  • Outdoor performance stage

These things can all help encourage a positive play atmosphere for non-verbal children and ensure that their feelings can be understood by teachers and other pupils.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you’d like some more advice on designing your school or nursery playground for non-verbal children. We’d be happy to discuss playground surfacing, markings and equipment that can enhance your outdoor play environment.

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