Special Educational Needs Playgrounds have a unique and beautiful part to play in the development and support of children, adults, and the carers who assist them.




What is a SEND Playground?

A SEND playground is a space that uses play equipment specifically designed for children with special educational needs and disabilities. These have structures and features that stimulate the senses and help develop social skills in children who may have difficulties in this area. To encourage the development of young minds, it’s important to make sure children can participate in self-regulatory play and heavy work activities in a safe, friendly, and supportive setting.

A SEND playground aims to provide a space for children to develop their sensory processing, communication, fundamental movement skills, and learning through play.

What Are Their Benefits?

Through the use of inclusive playground equipment, children with SEND are able to develop social skills and overcome challenges. Taking small risks during play boosts children's sense of achievement, which they can carry into adulthood.

There should be no barriers to engage and enjoy playgrounds since they belong to the community. Inclusion can not only benefit special needs children, but able-bodied children as well since they learn to include others.

As endorphins are released as a result of exercise, they boost a person's mood and motivation. It is critical to encourage children to exercise so they will be more likely to remain active in their later years. This can help reduce the risk of early onset of diseases.

SEND children may have different requirements depending on their circumstances. Here is a rough guide to the type of play that may suit each child.



Primary Age

We recognise the importance of encouraging, from an early age, the development and wellbeing of all SEND children. At dbdplay, the design of our outdoor spaces enables children with learning difficulties and physical disabilities to engage in activities which are meaningful and motivating, relevant and functional, and ultimately encourage the child’s independence.

Please take a look at Treloar’s School and College case study, a wonderful facility catering for students from 2 to 25 years. We have created a space that includes a Pets Corner where the pupils can access the hutches to help clean and care for the animals.

There is also an area which includes an Integrated Story Telling Chair, Water Play and a Wormery.



Secondary Age

As young children develop into teenagers it is important to create a space that caters for all ages through this important stage of development, both physically and emotionally.

Our designs and installations enable this to be achieved by incorporating activity, quiet and sensory areas, that allow the students to experience the outdoors in a variety of ways, whilst feeling safe and protected.

The Designs incorporate the opportunity to get involved with gardening which is known to reduce stress and help children cope with anxiety and frustration.

Please see Treloar’s School and College case study which includes areas where students can be involved in Horticulture, enjoy a variety of experiences using the Activity Table as well as enjoying social interaction around the garden and Firepit.


College Students

In a College setting, our aim is to provide an environment that enhances students ‘life’ experiences in preparation for moving into adult life, away from an educational setting.

Please take a look at Poplar College case study, where students enjoy hands on planting and observe the life cycle from seed to selling plants at social events.

Our design enables the students to learn important lessons through role play by serving refreshments from the fully insulated and heated Timber Building with Kitchen, which can also be used as a servery for social events.

For students with severe physical conditions we have incorporated a space to play Boccia, where students with a diverse range of conditions can enjoy playing a team sport together.

These experiences bring students a range of benefits including improved motor skills, enhanced creativity, increased social skills and improved self-confidence.



Respite Centres

Customer stays at Respite Centres vary so it is very important in any design to provide them with a positive and varied experience.

Our gardens naturally include all sensory elements that enhance the customers experience, but also incorporate areas where social gatherings can be enjoyed, encouraging social integration and special events. This includes a Canopy for shade, various seating areas to provide customers and visitors with a different viewpoint of the garden.

The Bradbury Manor facility cares for a variety of ages and needs and it was our remit to design an outdoor space for all. You will find a lovely curved path around the garden that is designed and laid so that the youngsters can also use the path for Go-Karting - something they really enjoy!




There are many children and adults that feel the world is overwhelming and this can cause them considerable anxiety.
We aim to encourage everyone to experience the outdoors and gain from its many benefits, so it is important to consider the individual needs that each care facility caters for.

We introduced this reflective polycarbonate circular mirror in one of our care home gardens, so that customers can enjoy watching reflections of the sky; watching clouds move and birds fly. This is an enjoyable pastime for those with specific special needs, helping them to relax.



Jack's Corner

An important part of the remit for this Care Home garden was to include a memorial for a young boy that had sadly passed away the previous year. We were told that Jack was mischievous, full of fun and that he loved to read. We wanted to make sure the memorial we created suited his character; we thought we would dedicate the Cedar Clad Relaxation Cube to Jack, as this provides a special area where customers can sit, read, and interact together.

As part of our design we created unique signage that read ‘Jack’s Corner’. Jack’s parents kindly gave us a birthday card that
Jack had written and from this, with their permission, we were able to replicate his handwriting style to denote ‘Jack’s Corner xx’ cutting the letters from sheet aluminium. Jack’s handwriting now sits boldly on the inside of the wall as a very personal and much-loved memorial.




Water Play

Whilst water play is fun for many children, unfortunately for some their main experience of water can relate to difficult and sometimes painful daily washing routines.

By introducing calming elements of water into our designs we are able to create a positive association with water and a relaxing space to engage.





Boccia is perfect for inclusion, enabling a vast range of abilities to join in together in one activity. Boccia was originally designed for athletes with disabilities affecting locomotor function such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and spinal injuries and has been an Olympic sport since 1984.

Boccia is enjoyed and played by people with a range of physical, sensory and learning disabilities. Balls can be rolled down a ramp, thrown or kicked. If a player is unable to release the ball with their hands, they can use assistive devices, such as a head pointer.

When the game of Boccia is not being played, the area can be used for a wide range of other activities due to the all-weather and hardwearing surface installed.



Ready to Get Started?

Children learn best by doing and gain from an experience, and sensory gardens allow them to take ownership of an experience as they can explore risk in a way that is measured and controlled.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are interested in discussing how we can create a Sensory Garden for your school, however big or small. We’ll work together with you to design a space that’s unique and functional, suited to your needs. Get in touch now for a free quotation.

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Originally published May 28, 2021 6:27:19 PM , updated August 9, 2022


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