Can a small playground encourage inclusive play?
Almost every inclusive playground I have ever seen is huge. The new playground in Auburn, Wash. is 32,000 square feet and cost more than $300,000. A newly opened inclusive playground in Fort Wayne, Ind., Taylor’s Dream Park, is 16,530 square feet and cost more than $1 million. The park offers a wonderful play experience with more than 74 play events. These are amazing playgrounds that make the members of their local communities proud. Hundreds of children will have great adventures because of the efforts of thousands of volunteers who designed, raised money and built these playgrounds.
But what about the communities that can’t build playgrounds this large or the family who just wants to walk down the street to their neighborhood park to play? Do all inclusive playgrounds need to be this big to offer opportunities for all children regardless of age or ability?
During a recent trip to Israel, I saw a playground near the beach in Tel Aviv that I thought might be considered an inclusive playground. It only had six pieces of equipment. Therefore, not everyone could play on every piece. But there might be at least one piece of equipment that you could play on. The surfacing was pour-in-place, so therefore it was accessible to everyone, including those using a mobility device.
There were multiple types of swings: a toddler swing, an adapted swing, and a bird nest swing thus ensuring that everyone could enjoy the exhilarating feeling that swings provide. In addition to the sensation of going back and forth, there was also a piece of equipment that let you go around and around. This means a child with autism or other sensory processing disorder could enjoy different types of motion.
The main play structure was a vast rope climber. It offered different levels of challenges, enabling children with various motor abilities to climb. It provided what physical therapists call “hard work” because it puts pressure on the muscle, joints and ligaments. This is an essential skill for all children to work on at their own level and at their own pace. As you climbed up the rope, there were pods where you could take a break or rest. The pods made great cozy places for children who get overwhelmed and need a small place to get away from it all.
The Tel Aviv playground also had a wavy slide that provided a full body tactile experience. There was also a smaller climber with a slide that was ideal for a child who was able to climb out of their wheelchair and easily get to the slide and go down.
In my opinion, this park provided something for everyone. Would you consider this an inclusive playground?