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Have a Highly Sensitive Child? Playgrounds Can Be Overwhelming: Here’s How to Cope

As with all individuals, whether a child or adult, each of us has different sensitivities and circumstances/things that can cause anxiety or feelings of discomfort.  When it comes to outdoor play and playgrounds in particular, if you have a child who is highly sensitive they may view what’s happening around them and what can be seen in a playground differently from other children.

While this shouldn’t keep your child from enjoying the playground, it is important to recognize how a busy playground might be viewed from their perspective so you can understand and know how to handle behavioral circumstances if he or she becomes easily overwhelmed.

What Can Create a Sense of Overwhelm on the Playground?

  • The sounds of children playing, whether it is kids shouting to each other or their parents
  • Children running from the seesaw to the slides and back
  • Children who may be crying
  • The high-pitched squeaking of swing chains as they move back and forth
  • The roundabout circling around with children joyfully cheering
  • Crying and tantrums as a child gets worn out
  • Discussions or arguments about who’s turn it is to use the slide
  • Parents sitting together in conversation with each other.

He or She May Notice the Possible Dangers

  • What if I fall from a swing
  • A high climbing frame that could cause me to misstep and fall
  • Children are climbing the wrong way up the slide and I could collide with them
  • What if I slip on those steps
  • I might lose my balance on the roundabout and fall

Highly sensitive children are naturally alert; due to the fact that they are fully aware of the potential dangers, they are extra cautious as a result. They need additional time to relax and feel at ease. Typically they require a bit more time to hang out near the side of the playground prior to getting in and playing. This hesitation stems from wanting to feel safe before they grab a swing or jump on a climber.

A HSC Needs You to Understand

Forcing a child who is highly sensitive to join the children on the playground and “go play” will likely backfire and cause additional discomfort on top of what they are already feeling.  Allow them the time they need to observe the crowd and area so they begin playing as they feel comfortable.

Try validating their feelings by letting them know what you see as a parent or caregiver;

“There are a lot of kids here today isn’t there? Did you want to sit here for a bit until things settle?”

Playground Suggestions for Your Highly Sensitive Child:

  • Pick a time and day when the playground is quiet
  • Visit the same play area multiple times so your child can get familiar with the equipment there
  • Don’t pressure your child to play. Let them take their time
  • Give warning prior to going to a playground.
  • Give plenty of warning about when you are leaving. It may have taken awhile to warm up and feel comfortable – and just as they reach this stage you announce they need to leave. It could provoke a meltdown

Interested in learning about our playgrounds? SPI provides components for outdoor play and custom designed indoor play structures. Whether you are a daycare, mall or restaurant we can create a playground that is inviting, safe, and exciting for all children.

Contact us at 1-800-269-6533

SPI Plastics Inc.

165 Stoneman Drive, Box 100
(Shouldice Block Road & Joynt Street)
Shallow Lake, ON
N0H 2K0

T   519-935-2211
TF 800-269-6533
F   519-935-2174

Business Hours

Monday - Thursday: 8am to 4:30pm
Friday: 8am to 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

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