Natural, all-inclusive playgrounds

by Bernie DeKoven on October 24, 2012

Yesterday, I wrote about inclusive games. Today, by something akin to serendipity, I found myself reading about inclusive playgrounds. I was excited to learn that people are using that term to describe playgrounds, because “accessible” wasn’t really working as well as I hoped it would.

Accessible Playgrounds are playgrounds designed for kids with special needs. Of course playgrounds like this are needed – as long as playgrounds are designed for “unlabeled” kids. As long as kids who are in wheelchairs can’t get into the swings or climbers or sliding boards and have to spend their play time watching other kids play. As long as blind kids and deaf kids can’t see or hear or join the fray. But accessible playgrounds are intended for the kids who need them. So these kids, who finally get to play, still don’t get to play with the kids who have all the access they need on every other playground in their neighborhood. So I was feeling hopeful, now that people are using the term “inclusive” and that there is some actual intention to include all kids, labeled or not, in play.

But even in these playgrounds, there’s nothing for the teens or adults to do except, for the most part, watch.

And then I saw a story about this playground

…in the Cow Hollow School in San Francisco. A natural playground. And it seemed to me so obvious that incorporating nature like this was also a fundamental quality of a truly inclusive playground. Well, including natural elements. Including more elements to invite the senses into play. And even though the swings weren’t as accommodating to adults or kids of limited mobility, the playground itself seemed warmer, more inviting, more like the kind of place I’d like to play in, too.

So, today I find myself thinking about natural, all-inclusive playgrounds, and thinking to myself, yes, o so very yes, this is closer to what we need to be providing for our communities, this is a goal to set, to reach. Natural, inclusive playgrounds. All-inclusive, I may add.


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