The universal language of play: how international school playgrounds can drive belonging and cohesion

The universal language of play: how international school playgrounds can drive belonging and cohesion

Attending an international school is undoubtedly an enriching experience, providing students with a global perspective and unique opportunities. Of course, it can also pose challenges like culture shock and transitory social environments – and that’s where a thoughtful and well-designed school playground can help.

For international schools, enticing and inclusive playgrounds are essential: embracing different ages, stages, abilities and preferences – while encouraging interactive play that accelerates the formation of crucial bonds.

Through play, children learn skills such as sharing, negotiating, leadership and empathy: helping to improve self-confidence and reduce the likelihood of bullying. Research shows that play settings improve social cohesion – and help support the social development of children because they are faced with situations where they have to learn to share, cooperate, and seek mutual goals (Hudson, Thompson, & Mack, 2000).

So, what are some of the key ingredients for a school playground that promotes acceptance, affinity and shared fun?

Smart equipment for socialising

The best school playground equipment ideas are designed for multiple people to use together, at the same time – catering to different ages and abilities. Basket swings, large hammocks, big net climbers, talk tubes, carousels, multi-rockers: they all provide opportunities to chill, chat, climb and laugh together. Even see-saws have come of age, with newer versions using continuous netting rather than seats to accommodate more people and encourage cooperation to achieve ‘balance’.

Easier Inclusion

A more inclusive school playground includes pathways, surfaces and configuration for easy access, navigation and use. It’s also about built-in flexibility: equipment at different heights, positioned for accessibility and interaction, and designed to be shared by kids of all abilities.

The sensory balance

Attracting all students to the playground requires a true understanding of, and attention to, sensory play. Some children (particularly with sensory processing issues) may crave certain sensations while others may be overwhelmed – and need smaller, calming spaces to retreat to. Interesting textures, sounds, shapes and colours (think musical instruments, and certain physical experiences like rocking or spinning) may be great for stimulation while small alcoves and tunnels are ideal for quieter moments.

A challenging space

For older children in a screen-obsessed world, it can be harder to get them active and interacting on the playground. Fortunately, there are innovative solutions – mixing technology and physical activity for an irresistible, high-energy way to play and learn. Our PlayAlive eWall, for example, offers so many combinations of games and activities, with amazing benefits for fitness, teamwork and cognitive development. Also, including some higher-level challenges on your playground (like high climbing rope structures and rope bridges, as well as outdoor fitness stations and circuits) can also be a great drawcard to get everyone outdoors and socialising together.

These are just some few thought-starters on promoting fun for everyone – and building valuable social and emotional skills. If you’d like to create a playground that promotes acceptance and belonging at your international school, call us today as we’d love to help.