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 Creating Tailored Zones For Children With SEN

How to Create Tailored Zones for Your Pupils, Meeting Their Special Educational Needs

Creating Tailored Zones For Children With Special Educational Needs

Schools should provide “a positive learning environment where children can live and learn and where staff can interact positively with children.” Positive environments where children can flourish - GOV.UK (

a birdseye view of an SEN Playground

They should also “pay particular attention to settings that provide care or education for children who have neuro-disability, communication support needs or special educational needs.” Positive environments where children can flourish - GOV.UK (

One way of providing these settings is to take the classroom outdoors.

Outdoor learning can make for happier, healthier, well-rounded students – particularly for those with special educational needs (SEN).” Nature is the best way to nurture pupils with special educational needs | Green schools | The Guardian

a tailored SEN zone

This blog will look at different outdoor learning zones that will enrich and enhance children with Special Educational Needs learning, as well as provide you with ideas on resources to use, to create your desired learning zone!

Zone 1 - Creating a Forest School:

“It is essential during their growth and development that children are exposed to the outdoors (Nahmad-Williams, 2014).

What is a Forest School?

Forest Schools are a unique type of outdoor learning environment, that takes place in natural spaces and are play-based and child-led. They enable children to learn practically through hands-on activities. Through these activities, children are encouraged to take risks and explore in a safe outdoor environment with support from their Forest School teachers. Forest Schools lessons are designed to enable children to:

  • use their imagination
  • be creative
  • be inquisitive and
  • explore

through playing and doing activities using natural materials such as woodwork, natural arts, and den-building.

a child stands and holds a snail in the palm of his hand

Forest Schools lessons can enhance children’s learning by developing their:

  • personal skills
  • social skills
  • practical skills
  • physical skills
  • linguistic skills
  • communication skills
  • concentration skills
  • confidence
  • behaviour
  • emotional well-being
  • knowledge and understanding of the world

Why Are Forest Schools Good For SEN Children?

“We have worked with many children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), in both mainstream and SEN schools, and have seen first-hand how nature and the Forest School ethos has helped these learners develop useful skills for wider life.” Helping SEN children develop life skills through Forest School - UK NAEE

children explore their forest, immersing themselves in nature

Forest Schools are a great learning environment for children with Special Educational Needs. Including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), behavioural difficulties, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia to name but a few.

Forest Schools are great settings for SEN children as they present the opportunity for practical and sensory learning experiences which are usually the desired learning patterns of SEN children.

a little boy kneels in front of the bug hotel and peers inside with a magnifying glass  Forest Schools are a fantastic setting for children with SEN because they:

  • help with concentration and motivation to learn
  • aid the development of confidence and self-esteem
  • are multi-sensory learning environments
  • encourage child-led learning
  • promote independence
  • help learning at their own pace
  • allow free-play
  • foster imagination
  • allow reflection
  • promote children to explore
  • allow children to learn through their interests
  • reduce anxiety
  • build resilience
  • improve communication skills

How Can Pentagon Help?

Pentagon Play are experts in providing fantastic resources and SEN equipment to create an outdoor Forest Schools to enhance your SEN children’s learning experiences.

two little girls water flowers round the side of their secret garden gazebo

When we look at SEN learning environments, we take into consideration:

  • Cognitive learning – some children need more sensory or physical environments to help their learning.
  • Behaviour (social and emotional) – some children need an area to move freely and in some cases away from other children, as well as a safe place to reduce any stress or anxiety
  • Communication – some children need a zone where they are not easily distracted and are able to focus on the topic at hand. Allowing free-flow play and interaction with sensory stimuli, and a safe place to learn.
  • Physical and/or sensory – some children need areas where they can move freely and independently and have the means to do so, maybe with signs, and extra space (if in a wheelchair). They may also need to have more sensory (acoustic and lighting) activities.

With this in mind Pentagon Play can produce a fun, multi-sensory and safe Forest Schools or learning zones.  A key product for any Forest School is our 5M Hexagonal Secret Garden Gazebo!

children stand around planters with trowels and shovels and dig

Why not have a “WOW” factor element in your Forest School Zone. Our Secret Garden Gazebo is the perfect addition to any Forest School and provides a perfect outdoor, natural learning environment.

It comes with:

  • Decked base – easy access for all
  • Benches x 5 (capacity of 33)
  • Trellis Arbor entrance
  • Planters x 7
  • Chalkboard
  • Rainwater system
  • Water Butt

This is the perfect place for SEN children to get stuck in and learn about nature in a multi-sensory environment using SEN equipment. The Planters and Arbor enables children to grow their own plants and vegetables. Thus, encouraging the children to get their hands dirty, feel the soil between their fingers, dig holes, place seeds in the soil, and water them.  At the same time, children can encounter the breeze in the trees, feel the sun on their skin and see the clouds in the sky which they wouldn’t experience indoors. Thus, helping SEN children’s sensory needs.

children stand around the size and water the plants around the secret garden gazebo

By physically planting new plants the children can feel a sense of achievement and increase their self-esteem and confidence. It also encourages resilience as they must wait for a few months until they bloom.

It also promotes SEN children to work and communicate together in groups or individually. Social interaction happens at the child’s own pace. Therefore, if they want to join in with the group they can, or if they want to work individually, they have the opportunity to do so.

children sit around the size of the secret garden gazebo

The Secret Garden Gazebo can also be used either for rich sensory needs or it can also be used for children who need a quiet place. They can use the planters to plant quietly or they can go inside and use the Gazebo as a quiet zone either to sit on the floor or benches to read and relax, or use the chalkboard for mark making, drawing, or writing stories…

For more ideas about sensory play, read 'Sensory Play Ideas for Special Needs Children'

Zone 2 - Music Making Zone:

“Music is a cornerstone of the broad and balanced education that every child should receive. It touches hearts and minds, it celebrates and challenges, and it connects us and moves us.” The power of music to change lives - A National Plan for Music Education (

children gather around the batonka and play music together

Benefits of Music for SEN Pupils:

Music touches every soul. Especially children with SEN and it can be an extremely useful tool to help them:

  • communicate
  • increase their vocabulary
  • develop their bilateral coordination
  • improve their social skills
  • increase their self-confidence
  • reduce any stress
  • improve their sleep
  • develop their memory skills
  • expand their auditory skills
  • improve their attention span
  •  express themselves
  • understand emotions and have empathy

Every child has the right to the highest quality music education regardless of their needs whether that is within the classroom or outside in specific outdoor music zones. Schools need to aspire to have high quality of music lessons on a regular basis to suit each child’s needs individually. Music education for children with Special Educational Needs must be seen as a continuous provision that is nurtured within schools to enhance the lives of the SEN children.

two children stand at the tongue drum and use the paddles to play a song

For SEN children, music education provides stimulus in which they can participate, which is different to a traditional classroom setting and can be created inside and outside. SEN children can use music to communicate their understanding of everyday events. Learning through music is fantastic because it:

  • Aids multi-sensory learning: children can use their senses to learn through touching, hearing and seeing.
  • Can be non-verbal: where children find it hard to speak or express themselves music can bridge the gap and allow SEN children to communicate and express their feelings without speaking.
  • Promote cognitive thinking: children with SEN are able to process music in numerous regions of the brain at the same time. Auditory learning through learning in many cases shows better learning than visual or tactile learning.
  • Motivates SEN children: by pushing them out of their comfort zone, encouraging them to join in, motivating them, and encouraging them to learn new skills.
  • Promotes learning: children with SEN can improve their learning through music rather than through traditional lessons. E.G. singing aids communication, rhythm enhances their motor skills and listening to music improves focus.

You can read more about Music Play for SEN in this blog: How Music can have a positive impact on SEN Children.

How can Pentagon Help?

We understand that music is an important tool to help the development of SEN children’s lives. Not only does it have a positive impact on their learning, but it also has a great impact on their behaviour and social skills too. That is why our team of experts has designed and built numerous outdoor Music Zones including SEN equipment for many schools where children with SEN can flourish and grow in a safe, calm, and musical environment.

children stand around musical instruments and play tunes

Our Music Pack is the perfect way to take music education outside by enriching your playground for your SEN children. Providing a stimulating and sensory environment for them to make music.

What’s included:

  • Drum Seats (x5)
  • Tongue Drum
  • Freestanding Chimes

Our beautifully crafted Drum Seats and Tongue Drums enable children with SEN to tap out rhythms encouraging development of their motor skills and allowing them to express themselves non-verbally. It also encourages children with SEN to participate with mainstream children and allows them to take the lead with the rhythmic beats, improving their confidence and social skills.

a little boy sits on the drum seat and plays a tune on the drum

Our fantastic Freestanding Chimes (with a full C Major scale), can finish off your music zone as the main focal point. Accessible to all children they can beat out tunes and rhythms to their hearts content. By touching the chimes, feeling the cold metal on their fingers, tapping rhythms, feeling the vibrations, and hearing the sounds provide a full multi-sensory experience for any child. Encouraging SEN children to play on it individually or with friends promotes listening, focus, expression, behaviour, fine motor skills and ultimately learning.

Creating a music zone in your playground provides the SEN children with the opportunity to explore and create musical sounds outside of their classroom as part of their music education in line with the national curriculum. By providing this facility you are enhancing the children’s cognitive, emotional, and physical lives that promote learning, and in most cases, a better way of learning for SEN children.

a child stands on either side of the batonka and play musical instruments

“Indeed, not providing music opportunities for young people with SEND denies them a chance to experience the joys of the subject and to progress their learning in it.” The power of music to change lives - A National Plan for Music Education (

ZONE 3: Arts and Crafts Zone

“Even the most severely disabled student can, through their senses, appreciate the joy of the arts.” (Bailey N, 2015)

two little boys stand at the easel on wheels and draw on it with chalk

For children with SEN, Arts and Crafts lessons can be a valuable subject for them. Enabling children to find hidden talents and enjoy being creative, which may not be accessible to them in other areas of the national curriculum.

Benefits of Arts and Crafts Lessons:

“Every child is an artist” (Picasso)

Arts and Crafts lessons including specific outdoor creative zones in schools are an essential part of any SEN child’s learning as they promote:

  • social and communication skills
  • co-ordination and gross and fine motor skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • response to stimulus
  • perception
  • expression
  • cognitive development
  • awareness of surroundings
  • multi-sensory learning (touch, sound, sight, smell)
  • emotional awareness
  • self-esteem and motivation to achieve.

as they tap into their inner artist and learn about shapes, colours, textures, form and line.

two children kneel on the artificial grass in front of the chalkboard and write on it with chalkFor SEN children having access to a diverse Art Education develops their inner creative side and empowers them, by encouraging them to start and finish a project. Having a tangible creation at the end of the project to see and touch, promotes confidence, pride and a sense of achievement in SEN children. Inspiring them to learn and physically do more. Behaviour and stress levels will improve in an Arts and Crafts environment where the SEN child gains more self-worth with every completed project. SEN children can grow in confidence when their work is displayed knowing that they have successfully completed a project, can take pride in their work, and gain recognition and praise from others.

a little girl stands at the essentials group art easel and doodles on it

Depending on the abilities of the children Arts and Crafts lessons can be easily adapted to incorporate every child. The joy of Arts and Crafts lessons is that they are highly adaptive and can be inclusive for all levels of capability. Allowing children with SEN to feel part of the class, as well as being able to participate in group activities.

For non-verbal children art can be a form of therapy that enriches their lives as it can help with speech therapy, behavioural issues, and emotional problems.

a little girl stands at the essentials group art easel and draws on the chalkboard side

Arts and Crafts lessons can help different types of SEN learners:

Visual Impairment: Children with visual disabilities can thrive in Arts and Crafts lessons due to it having tactile elements to it. By using different materials such clay, shells, sand paper, felt, sand and paint children can use these mediums to produce their works of art. By touching and feeling children can have multi-sensory experiences by feeling different textures, moulding, painting, finger painting, sticking and building.

Speech Issues: Arts and Crafts lessons are a fantastic way for non-verbal children to express themselves through other mediums such as painting, drawing, felt making, and clay model building… Children with speech problems could also benefit from group Arts and Crafts projects promoting communication and collaboration.

Emotional Issues: Arts and Crafts can help SEN children with emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress.

“Drawing positive scenes has been shown by researchers to temporarily improve mood and is more effective than venting about a problem.” Art for Special Needs Students - The Inspired Classroom

a child stands at the art easel and draws on it

Arts and Crafts lessons encourage SEN children to express themselves in a way that they would not necessarily be able to do. In doing so they are able to concentrate and reduce their stress levels and be creative in a relaxed and calm learning environment.

Limited Motor Skills: SEN children with limited motor skills are able to do Arts and Crafts lessons that are adapted to suit and develop their personal motor skills needs. For example using rubber stamps to create patterns on card or using hand or foot paintings on card to produce collage of work. Lessons can be moulded to suit the SEN children’s needs.

How Can Pentagon Play Help?

“Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. These arrangements should include a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEN. The benefits of early identification are widely recognised – identifying need at the earliest point, and then making effective provision, improves long-term outcomes for children.” SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf (

a little girl kneels on the floor and draws on the indoor art easel

Pentagon Play understands how important Arts and Crafts lessons are for children with SEN and have developed a range of SEN equipment that is specific for Arts and Crafts. By developing a specific Arts and Crafts zone in your school playground you are enabling SEN children to stimulate their senses, promote social and linguistic skills, improve behaviour, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote motor skill development.

Our Giant Paint Panel is a perfect multi-functional addition to any outdoor Arts and Crafts zone.

What’s Included:

  • 2 wooden posts
  • Play grade timber frame
  • Clear polycarbonate (for creating on!)

By creating an outdoor Arts and Crafts zone you are encouraging all children to be expressive and imaginative outside of the classroom environment. By being outdoors you are removing any constraints a classroom environment may have on certain SEN children. Letting their imaginations run wild in a multi-sensory atmosphere! Who knows the next Damian Hirst may be painting in your very own outdoor Arts and Craft zone!

two little girls sit on the stack and sits and draw on the easel

The Panel is a great piece of SEN equipment allowing children to get messy and use their creative flair with paints. Being multi-sensory they can either use a paint brush or their fingers to create a wonderful piece of expressive art. Developing their fine motor skills, whilst at the same time strengthening and improving dexterity in their hands and fingers.

The Giant Painting Panel also is an inclusive piece of SEN equipment as it allows children to work individually or in groups to create and design. Improving social and communication skills and improving self-confidence. If a child opts to work individually, it can allow the child to self-regulate and reduce any stress and anxiety that they are feeling.

children sit on the floor in a circle and draw on scribble boards

A great resource for an outdoor Arts and Crafts zone to let budding Da Vinci’s, Goya’s, Van Gogh’s or Matisse’s pave the way!

Find out more about designing an accessible playground for all in our blog,  Special Educational Needs: Inclusive Play


Positive environments where children can flourish - GOV.UK (

Nature is the best way to nurture pupils with special educational needs | Green schools | The Guardian

Nahmad-Williams (2014). Early Childhood Studies: Principles and Practice

Helping SEN children develop life skills through Forest School - UK NAEE

The power of music to change lives - A National Plan for Music Education (

Bailey N (2015) - The Importance of the Arts to Students with Disabilities – Living in Dialogue


Art for Special Needs Students - The Inspired Classroom

SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf (