What is inclusion and why do we need it?

All children play or show interest in playing. Also children who experience difficulties in performing various activities, want and need to play. However, some children meet numerous barriers while carrying out play activities. There may be physical obstacles; a lack of ability to understand rules or difficulties to share imagination with peers.

Obstacles and barriers are not defined by the nature of the world; our cities and public spaces are a human-made construction and our actions and the way we organise things are our choice. Obstacles are there, because the world was created with only some majority of average people in mind, without taking into account that there is a number of people who don’t fit this average standard. But this means we CAN change it. We can re-build and re-organise the world – on purpose – for all people. This is what we call inclusion.

In her research article, part of the ‘LUDI’ COST-action project, Dr. Serenella Besio states that play and other leisure activities are directly correlating with developmental issues - the more delayed is the development, the less the child is interested in play, common activities, socializing (Besio, 2016).

However, this lack of interest may be caused by a lack of appropriate support, infrastructure or available leisure time and not be an intrinsic property of a child itself. As Dr. Besio states “Indispensable elements to support the child’s play seems to be emotional support, encouragement, effective participation in recreational settings” (Besio, 2016). In this sense, being inclusive is: to welcome all children to participate in activities, by adapting infrastructure and by providing appropriate support for those who need it in any way possible.

As Maria Montessori once said: “Play Is The Work of the Child”. By playing, children learn about the world around them. They learn how things function, practice social interactions and develop their motoric skills. According to Montessori, play should be voluntary, enjoyable, purposeful and spontaneous. Although it is tempting to see play as a driver of developmental progress, we tend to focus more on the spontaneous joy of playing, in and for itself. After all, it is the joy of playing, that makes a child want to play and discover more. The focus of children themselves, is in the process rather than on the end-result. (Bondioli, 2002).

The benefits of playing are clear and that is why playing is a right for every child everywhere in the world. In the Convention on the Rights of the Child is stated that all children - including children with a disability - have the right to ‘play, rest and leisure’. Next to that, all children also have the right to social inclusion. This includes the right, for all children, to have appropriate spaces available, to participate in play on an equal basis with others.

KBT aims to be at the forefront of creating ‘safe playgrounds for everyone, everywhere’. We understand that all children benefit from playing, especially those with a disability. That is why KBT is engaged to create better play infrastructure, where all children and parents feel welcome and can participate in a rich play experience, adapted to their needs. We already produce a large number of products that can be used by a wide range of children and in the near future we are planning to enlarge our offer even more.

Our commercial nest swings are an example of products that are fun and safe and can be used by many children in different ways. In groups, by individual users or by users with a supporting companion. Children can play on different energetic levels depending on their skills: active and wild, or gently rocking; standing up, or laying down. Another example is our 1m-wide slide. Some children – for very different reasons – are anxious to use a slide alone. With our wide slide, a companion can assist the child and they can slide together. This is making the thrill of sliding available for all children, provided that the top of the slide is also accessible for all. To find more information on how to build accessible play infrastructure, or if you have questions about our offer, contact your KBT representative and they will get in touch.


About the authors:

Filip Gerits and Yves De Keuster are designers and researchers specialised in design and safety of activity toys and play infrastructure. For this topic we were happy to count on the indispensable support of a range of experts, children and parents with experience in the field of inclusive play. We especially like to thank Kathleen Op De Beeck - specialised in occupational therapy and inclusive education at AP – university college in Antwerp, Belgium – for her input and enthusiasm.

Sources for this article:  

  • (1) Besio, Serenella. (2016). The Need for Play for the Sake of Play
  • (2) Bondioli, Anna. (2002). Gioco e educazione [Play and education]

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