Promoting the development of foundation phase learners in under-resourced environments using Ayres Sensory Integration® principles and custom-designed, low-cost playgrounds

Annamarie van Jaarsveld, Erna Liebenberg, FC Van Rooyen, Elize Janse van Rensburg


Introduction: Children from under-resourced environments often lack opportunities to engage in sensory experiences that support developmental abilities and scholastic performance. “Back to Urth” playgrounds were designed to address the developmental needs of foundation phase learners in under-resourced communities. A 12-week sensory-motor program, based on Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI) principles, was developed, and educators were trained to present this program on a “Back to Urth” playground at a rural school in the Free State. This study aimed to determine the effect of the program, on the development of Grade R and Grade 1 learners.

Method: Learners from two comparable, no-fee schools were included in this experimental non-randomised pre-test-post-test control group design study. Learners from one school participated in the sensory-motor program on the “Back to Urth” playground (n=40), and learners from the other school served as the control group (n=41). The effect of the program was measured with the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency 2nd Edition (Short Form), Revised Ayres-based Clinical Observations, and the Optima School Readiness Assessment.

Results: An improvement in scores for both groups, with the experimental group showing statistically greater improvement in their Revised Ayres-based Clinical Observations and Optima School Readiness Assessment total scores were indicated.

Conclusion: This research provides evidence that sensory-motor components subserving learning can be improved when learners are exposed to a sensory-motor program designed within the framework of ASI®, presented by educators on a low cost “Back to Urth” playground.


Sensory-motor, development, low-cost sustainable playground, sensory integration, educators

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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