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 Creating Tailored Zones For Children With SEN

Creating Tailored Zones For Children With SEN

Creating Tailored Zones For Children With Special Educational Needs

“Outdoor learning can make for happier, healthier, well-rounded students – particularly for those with special educational needs (SEN).” - The Guardian

a birdseye view of an SEN Playground

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 pupils to learn practically and stimulate children's senses through hands-on activities during outdoor play. 

Through these activities, students and SEN students are encouraged to take risks and explore in a safe outdoor environment with support from their teachers.

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

Forest Schools are designed to enable children to:

  • use their imagination
  • be creative
  • develop social skills
  • be inquisitive and explore
  • develop communication skills
  • develop physical skills
  • improve their concentration skills
  • Improve self-esteem and emotional feelings and well-being
  • Increase their understanding of the world

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

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 outdoor play learning environment for pupils with SEN. Including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), behavioural difficulties, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia to name but a few.

They present the opportunity for practical and sensory stimulation learning experiences which are usually the desired learning patterns of SEN students.

a little boy kneels in front of the bug hotel and peers inside with a magnifying glass

Forest Schools are great for SEN students because they:

  • help with concentration and motivation to learn
  • aid the development of confidence and self-esteem
  • are multi-sensory learning environments
  • aid sensory processing
  • stimulate children's senses
  • 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 SEN outdoor play equipment and SEN play equipment to create outdoor Forest Schools in a schools' outdoor play area to enhance your SEN pupil’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 for SEN schools.  

5M Hexagonal Secret Garden Gazebo

A key product for any Forest School is our 5M Hexagonal Secret Garden Gazebo!

New playground equipment for SEN schools is key to enhancing SEN learning. Why not add our Secret Garden Gazebo to your Forest School/special education play areas, providing a perfect outdoor, and natural learning play environment for numerous therapeutic activities!

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

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 special education play area for SEN pupils to get stuck in and learn about nature in a multi-sensory environment using a full range of SEN equipment. The Planters and Arbor are easily accessible, and enables students to grow their own plants and vegetables. Encouraging children to get their hands dirty, feel the soil, dig holes, place seeds in the soil, and water them.  

Simultaneously, pupils can encounter the breeze in the trees, feel the sun on their skin and see the clouds in the sky, helping SEN student’s sensory processing 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, confidence, develop social skills, encouraging cooperation and resilience as they must wait for the plants to bloom.

It also promotes SEN pupils to work and have social interactions by working closely 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 during play time, they have the opportunity to do so.

The Secret Garden Gazebo can also be used either for rich sensory needs or it can also accommodate special needs 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'

children sit around the size of the secret garden gazebo

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 SEN pupils. It can be an extremely useful tool to help them:

  • communicate and have social interaction with peers and teachers
  • 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 emotional feelings and have empathy

Music education for pupils with SEN must be seen as a continuous provision that is nurtured within schools to enhance the lives of the SEN students.

For SEN pupils, 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 students can use music to communicate their understanding of everyday events. 

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

Learning through music is fantastic because it:

  • Aids multi-sensory learning: through touching, hearing and seeing in a play environment.
  • Can be non-verbal: by expressing their feelings without speaking.
  • Promote cognitive thinking: pupils with SEN are able to process music in numerous regions of the brain at the same time through auditory 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: students with SEN can improve their learning through music rather than through traditional lessons.

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 pupil’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. 

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

children stand around musical instruments and play tunes

What’s included:

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

Our beautifully crafted Drum Seats and Tongue Drums are great additions to any SEN playground equipment. Enabling pupils with SEN to tap out rhythms developing their motor skills and expressing themselves non-verbally.

It also encourages students 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 as playground equipment, they can beat out tunes and rhythms to their hearts content.

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 pupils to play on it individually or with friends aiding listening, focus, expression, behaviour, fine motor skills and ultimately learning.

Creating a music zone with SEN playground equipment, provides the SEN students 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 SEN playground equipment 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 pupils.

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 pupil’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 chalk

For SEN pupils 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 pupil gains more self-worth with every completed project. SEN students 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

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.

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

Ways in which Arts and Crafts lessons can aid SEN pupils:

Visual Impairment: Children with visual disabilities can thrive in Arts and Crafts lessons due to it having tactile multi-sensory elements to it. By using different materials such clay, shells, sand paper etc. children can use these mediums to produce their works of art. 

Speech Issues: Arts and Crafts lessons are a fantastic way for non-verbal students to express themselves through other mediums such as painting, drawing, felt making, and clay model building… as well as promoting communication and collaboration.

Emotional Issues: Arts and Crafts can help SEN pupils 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 students 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 pupils 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.

How Can Pentagon Play Help?

“Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities.” -

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 playground equipment that is specific for Arts and Crafts. Helping 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.

Our Giant Paint Panel

What’s Included:

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

The Panel is a great piece of SEN equipment allowing pupils 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.

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

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