Assessing a Play Space
Key Features: A variety of manufactured and natural materials to provide experiences for a sense of freedom, discovery, exploration, creativity, innovation and sensory stimulation. Examples would be bike tracks, grassy areas, climbing structures, sand areas, variety of balls.
Movement Opportunities: Opportunities for traveling actions such as skipping and climbing, stabilizing actions such as swinging, pushing and pulling, and manipulating actions like throwing, bouncing, and kicking.
Flexibility and Play: functional (gross motor), construction (building, fine motor and cognition), and symbolic play (role play/fantasy) opportunities.
Shelter and Shade Structures: Plat spaces located under natural or artificial such as tress or umbrellas.
Natural Features: Includes natural elements for play such as tree stumps, water and pebbles. Also, flowering plants and topographic variations are encouraged.
Welcoming Atmosphere: Inviting atmosphere by being clean, organized and in good repair. Should include at least two decorative elements like statues, flags or cultural artifact.
Sensory Elements: Provide opportunities for a variety of sensory experiences including touch, smell, sound, vestibular and proprioceptive input. Try swings, slides, throwing, lifting and climbing.
Accessibility and Inclusive Play: Incorporate an accessible swing to a swing set or an elevated sandbox to allow access for children of all abilities.
Risk and Challenge: Allow children to experience adventure and excitement. Open-ended activities that challenge physical, social and cognitive skills by having areas for hiding or introducing inside materials to the outdoors are great ways to add adventure.
Surfacing: Add a variety of textures and provide soft, cushiony surface under swing set and other equipment.
Enclosures and Safety Features: Safe and free of hazards by eliminating sharp edges, entrapment openings, and protrusion or entanglement hazards. Enclose the play space with appropriate fencing.
The Play Space Assessment provides a framework for ensuring quality for outdoor play for preschoolers. This assessment tool has been reviewed and promoted by the National Association of the Education of Young Children as developmentally appropriate and they have encourages its use by childcare centers and preschool programs across the nation.
Outdoor play can incorporate all areas of development if it is planned and designed with intention and thought. Creating areas to support social and physical play, as well as cognitive growth will ensure that your outdoor play space meets high quality standards!