A Stimulating, Engaging Outdoor Environment for Children With SEN
Richmond Hill Academy, apart of the GORSE Trust, contacted our expert playground consultant, Meg Booth, to help transform their Rainbow Bases external play area.
Currently, the Rainbow Base provides support and education for primary-aged children with special educational needs, specifically those with complex communication difficulties and/or Autism.
They wanted to enhance their children’s communication, investigation, curiosity, persistence and other core skills before moving onto traditional subjects in their external play area.
The academy, based in Leeds, wanted our help to transform and develop the play area to help contribute towards their children’s skills while providing engaging, stimulating outdoor learning and play activities, accessible to all children - no matter their needs or ability.
Consequently, Meg designed and installed a fantastic outdoor learning environment that would meet each and every target the school had for the exciting project.
We started by removing the previous tired equipment before resurfacing and installing a vibrant new area that included a selection of different playground surfaces and playground equipment installed in zones to create dedicated areas.
To extend the physical play opportunities presented to the children in the playground, we installed a lovely selection of playground challenges for the young children to utilise.
Since the new physical development areas had to be soft and comfortable to sit on, impact absorbing and usable all-year round, we installed a variety of Playground Surfaces.
The area has mainly been surfaced with vibrant, tactile artificial grass playground surfacing along with a Grey, Earth Blend and Black Wet Pour to zone the space.
Our excellent Tryfan Climber is central to the clearly marked black Wet Pour roadway, which provides the children with an energising climbing challenge. The children can swing or simply hang from the ropes as they balance and climb on the beams, attempting to reach the top of the challenge. Hanging is a simulating activity to help children gain tension in their muscles and prepare themselves for learning.
Those who are a little bit more adventurous are able to climb to the top of the highest beam before jumping down and climbing back up all over again!
Through an exciting climbing frame such as the Tryfan, children are able to develop their spatial awareness and overall body strength as they prepare themselves for learning.
Surrounding the new climbing frame is a bespoke Wet Pour Roadway to establish a dedicated area for children to develop their understanding of road safety, along with a space for racing bikes, trikes and scooters around the playground. Additionally, it has created a visual zone for climbing and physical development to take place.
Opposite the humongous climbing frame, we installed a fantastic Basket Swing to provide children with a dedicated space to self-regulate themselves.
Not only can children use the excellent swing to calm themselves and increase their focus for activities back in the classroom, they are also able to strengthen their vestibular system while improving their balance, co-ordination, spatial awareness and muscle strength through swinging!
We installed a huge Wet Pour Splash around the frame to provide a visual zone for the children to swing and participate in kinetic, regulatory active play activities.
Our brand new In-Out Shapes have also been installed to encourage physical development along with providing the children with a therapeutic exercise and outdoor den making opportunities!
The In-Out Shapes have been designed to benefit SEN children with a variety of additional needs as they crawl, weave and climb in and out of the different timber shapes on the playground, providing children with a choice of different shapes to use while self-regulating themselves and preparing their brains for learning.
Since these simple shapes are so open-ended, they can be used as a breakout space through the draping of loose materials over the rounded, timber posts. Children can build their own dens to relax in or even socialise with one another: a cosy, breakout space and a therapeutic exercise in one!
Creative and Imaginative Play Games
At the rear of the playground, there were two lovely trees in the corner that the academy didn’t want to remove. Consequently, we created a natural-looking play area for the children to participate in messy, imaginative and sensory play.
Our market-leading Mud Kitchen enables the young children to investigate and develop fine motor skills as they mix, stir, manipulate and experience a range of different textures as they bake delicious mud pies and cakes!
Bark surfacing in the area is another playground texture for the children to experience as they move from the Artificial Grass onto the natural Bark.
Alongside the new natural play area, we situated playground performance stage to inspire curiosity and imaginative play games while improving children’s communication and language skills outdoors.
The children can get up on stage and sing, dance or perform their own little tunes and plays in front of their audience!
As the school wanted to create a free-flow play environment, we sectioned the larger space off with our natural Timber Bow-Top Gate and Trellis Screens, so that the school could prevent or enable access at times that it suites them and their children.
The children and teachers can use the trellis screens to hang loose play resources or promote fine motor skill development as children weave ribbon, rope and other loose play resources through the large square holes.
Regulatory Play Activities
An Embankment Slide situated in the smaller playground has provided the young children with an exciting regulatory activity, which caters for Rainbow Bases children’s very different and varied needs.
Children can use the slide, embanked on an Artificial Grass Playground Mound, to practice self-regulation and develop lower body strength as they participate in the repetitive activity of walking up the mound before sliding down the slide before repeating the action until they’re calm and ready for learning back inside.
The Embankment Slide is inclusive to those who may require extra assistance as teachers can slide down with the children while they become calm and regulated.
Mark Making and Sensory Play
In the smaller playground, we also installed a selection of outdoor play equipment to provide numerous opportunities for mark making, sensory play and learning through play.
A Sliding Sand Pit and Water Wall with Water Play Package enables the young children to explore and investigate water and sand as they dig, scoop and pour the materials. Digging in the sand is a favourite for the children! The water wall creates a sense of curiosity around water and gravity as children watch the water run down the channels back into the water table.
Our brand new Nesting Tables also feature in this area. Providing a space for small world play activities, our Nesting Tables are perfect for children of all ages and abilities.
Bigger than a normal Tuff Spot Table, they allow wheelchair users to all sit around one table together, interacting and playing as they make eye contact and socialise!
Against the building is a magnificent Timber Canopy, which enables free-flow play and provides the children with shade and shelter from the elements.
Learning activities can be set up and left under the canopy for children access, without extending the set-up time for teachers and practitioners.
Meg absolutely loves the transformation of Richmond Hill Academy’s Playground and loved returning to the school to see the children enjoying their new outdoor environment!