Play Station

Designers: Lauren J. Matic and David J. Rodrian
Client Coordinators: Michelle Hoffman, Durham County Schools
Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

The goal of this project was to provide an adjustable height play station with sensory activities to allow children with and without disabilities at Parkwood Elementary School to interact, learn academic concepts, and develop motor skills.  The device includes an adjustable height table and adapted sensory toys.  The completed play station allows children of different abilities, or heights, or children using a wheelchair to interact with others at the same eye level.

How this project helped
Our client coordinator, Michelle Hoffman, had this to say about the Play Station: “All of the kids, even older kids, want to play with the sensory station.  It’s a great success here at Parkwood Elementary.  The dumping bin is the favorite for most of the kids.”

The Sensory Play Station is shown in Figure 1. The table frame is constructed from commercially available aluminum framing and connectors (Bosch-Rexroth Inc.), making the table sturdy, lightweight, and weather resistant.  The table is 25.5” wide by 37.5” long — small enough to fit through a doorway and still allow multiple children to interact.  Two inexpensive, commercial plastic bins with lids fit into the top of the play station frame.  These bins are removable to allow the sensory medium such as sand or water to be changed.   A Movotec Lift System (Suspa Inc.), bolted to the legs of the frame, allows the table height to be adjusted from 25” to 37” by turning the crank of a hydraulic pump.  To prevent the crank from becoming accessible to children, a cable lock is mounted on the frame. To improve mobility of the table, locking casters are mounted to the table legs with custom aluminum brackets.

Several sensory activities promote interaction between children and provide exposure to academic concepts.  Two custom-designed toys are permanently mounted to the frame (Figure 2).  The first, called the tipsy toy, consists of a bucket attached to a string.  When a large ring on the end of the string is pulled, the bucket tips over, pouring its contents into one of the activity bins.  This activity helps improve motor skills and encourages teamwork while addressing the academic concepts of cause and effect and gravity.

The second custom toy is a teeter-totter.  The teeter-totter is constructed out of weatherproofed wood with plastic containers secured to each end using Velcro.  Since the toy is centered over the table, one student can fill one container while another student fills the other container.  This activity addresses the academic concept of heavy vs. light and more vs. less. In addition, several commercial sensory toys were purchased to add fun and educational elements to the play station. The cost of parts for the Sensory Play Station was about $750.

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