Designing play for everyone to stay

Inclusive play in our communities has become more and more sought after in the last few years. We strive more than ever to provide spaces for people in which they can feel totally included, comfortable and provide all the amenities they require in order to spend longer at a place.

Most consider this necessary for children/youth who play in these spaces, however most of us forget that inclusivity in play isn’t just about the children, it is also about the parents, grandparents and carers who take the children to the playspace. Some people face barriers with mobility, travel and even the access to bathroom facilities in a public park. Generally, if you feel as though you and your children aren’t going to be provided with all the amenities you require with dignity, what is the likelihood you would go to the playspace for more than half an hour, or even at all?

Supporting elements such as fully accessible bathroom facilities, furniture and car parking are the ‘must have’ elements for many people when considering a trip to a playspace. These inclusions, or lack thereof, will impact the success of overall usage, engagement and functionality of a space.

We as designers need to consider that a truly inclusive playspace is one that caters for every single person who comes to play, supervise or relax. This attention to program and amenity comes from strong partnerships with communities, Council, stakeholders and of course organisations like Variety – The Children’s Charity, who partner with teams like Place Design Group to ensure we design playspace where we can all play together, feel safe, welcome and that we belong.

The Head of Inclusive Play at Variety – the Children’s Charity, Kim Becherand, is a passionate advocate for creating play for everyone. “To deliver a truly inclusive playspace you need to be playful and inclusive in process and practice throughout the project. This starts with deep, authentic community engagement with all those we want to use the space, especially the kids. This engagement then continues alongside the collaboration amongst designers, stakeholders, Council, the builders, and product suppliers from design to delivery.

Everyone needs to be on board, to be open to learn and try something new, to really listen, and want to do better and drive change. Doing things differently can be a challenge, so it’s really important the team is informed, works to the common goal of play for everyone and most importantly has fun while we do it!”

Some of the key inclusions enabling people to stay at playspace include:

  • Fully accessible toilet and adult change facilities
  • Accessible picnic and barbecue facilities
  • Shaded cool spaces for gathering and respite
  • Access to water
  • Diverse and accessible play experiences that offer choice and which everyone can join in
  • Accessible parking spaces which are easy to navigate and close to the entry
  • Signage and wayfinding, clearly defined entries and circulation paths
  • Varied spaces for high action, passive play and sanctuary.

Nick Ison, Director at Place Design Group says “Inclusive spaces and places aren’t just limited to play and open space, it is fundamentally part of all design we undertake. Truly holistic design considers every person who will use, engage with and participate in the spaces we design. We need to ensure that we are designing and delivering spaces which meet the needs of everyone. Collaboration is key in all stages of these projects to ensure we are meeting the unique needs of the communities we are working in”.

“Inclusive play is a key contributor to building sustainable communities. As Landscape Architects we have a responsibility to build social cohesion through our design work and that comes from creating places where everyone is welcome, regardless of age, ability, or cultural background” says Baz Richards, Associate Landscape Architect at Place Design Group.


Nick Ison



Baz Richards

Associate Landscape Architect