What sets rope-based play equipment apart from other play structures is that there is no one way to properly play on the equipment. The children will have to use their imagination when they use rope structures because there are endless ways to play on them. Basically, there are no prescribed entry points or paths to be followed, and the open environment of the net allows social interaction.
Each step, each level, each time a child grabs another rope to move, it is another chance for the child to make a decision. With each successful decision, their self-confidence is increased.
Inclusive rope-based play is unique, free play for each child, and challenges the children’s motor skills, stimulates their imagination, and improves their muscle development as well as their balancing skills.
The rope equipment is not confined to one level of difficulty. Instead, it has many elements that can challenge the child. Children and young adults can choose whether to venture on to the sections with large distances between the ropes, or they can choose to test their motor skills in the narrower sections.
There are two types of inclusive rope-based play equipment: two-dimensional and three-dimensional. The two-dimensional rope structures can be climbed on in any direction—vertically, horizontally, or even across if there is a bridge of some kind.
The three-dimensional structures are referred to as space nets or net climbers, and come in an array of different shapes and sizes; they enhanced the play experience by including a mix of both low and high courses. This is another aspect that allows for endless play opportunities.
What is Inclusive Play/Accessible Play?
So, what makes rope play inclusive? When one thinks of a rope structure, the idea of children with disabilities being included does not usually come to mind unless you’ve seen rope structures such as those manufactured by Berliner.
Inclusive play enables children of all types, ages and abilities to play together and encourages engagement between children, including those with disabilities, hearing or sight impairments, ADHD, Down’s syndrome, and kids without any impairment.
Inclusive play does not take away the challenge or excitement of the playground for those without disabilities, but simply creates a balance that allows children of all abilities to enjoy the playground together.
There must be transfer stations in order to satisfy the regulations of the ADA, allowing the child to move from their wheelchair and onto the play structure:
Children who have limited mobility can grip the rope and feel the movement caused by the other children playing on it, being included in the play in their own way.
Children in wheelchairs can travel underneath and through the play structure, enabling them to socially interact with the children climbing on the structure above them.
The rope equipment challenges motor skills and offers endless play options.
Because there is no one way to play on the structure, it does not exclude anyone—even adults can enjoy the structure!
What Educators Say About Rope-Based Play
Educators have said that the ropes have been more accessible than traditional playground equipment, allowing interaction between children of all abilities. The inclusive rope-based structures are open, allowing for easier supervision.
“One student with Cerebral Palsy had never been on a slide before. The teachers helped her up the ropes to the slide entrance and assisted her on the way down. Her attitude about recess changed dramatically after that.”
“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 wheelchairs 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.”
By Sarah Knight