One year of inclusive play in Russia and counting…

This week marks the one year anniversary of the opening of the first inclusive playground in Russia. Together with our partner in inclusive play, Shane’s Inspiration, we designed the fully inclusive and accessible playground to deliver a nature-inspired play experience. The natural playground design in addition to the sensory-stimulating and developmentally appropriate activities will welcome children and families of all abilities.

This is the first inclusive playground to be installed in Russia.

The installation of the accessible playground equipment was in association with the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. Read more about this playground first here.

Playground activities to help develop smart kids

After years of observing toddlers and preschoolers at play, one thing is certain… they are on the move. These younger kids are still developing many of their senses and skills, so they are interested in playground activities that move—steering wheels, puzzles, shape-and-fit games. That’s why we’ve created the Smart Play line with interactive playground activities for kids ages 2 to 5.

Smart Play: Cube 2-5

NEW Smart Play: Cube 2-5

While the Smart Play designs—Smart Play: Cube 2-5, introduced earlier this year, and Smart Play: Motion 2-5, introduced in 2014—welcome kids ages 2 to 5, they were designed specifically to meet the needs of 2- and 3-year-olds. Every playground activity was thoughtfully included because of their developmental benefits to help toddlers and preschoolers build their senses, motor and cognitive skills, and encourage cooperation and imaginative play.

Smart Play: Motion 2-5 was introduced in 2014

Smart Play: Motion 2-5 was introduced in 2014

And now with two unique designs from which to choose—mid-century modern or more whimsical—playground planners can incorporate these affordable, activity-packed play structures into tight spaces and budgets. Even more, you can feel good about purchasing Smart Play structures; they’re manufactured using a smart use of materials.

Tell us what you think about our Smart Play line of playground designs below, and then visit playlsi.com to learn more.

A unique perspective

The City of Lewiston, Maine, is the region five winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest. The vision for this community’s inclusive playground comes from a unique perspective–providing a place where children can not only play with their friends, but also with their parents or guardians. Read below to learn more about their vision for inclusion on the playground.

“As parents of a 4-year-old, they want quality play time with her. Ben has been a quadriplegic since December 2007 and finding ways to play together has been difficult.

They desire a playground where children and adults with disabilities feel welcome–a centralized play area versus being separated from others. Inclusiveness, they say, would affirm that others are willing to share time/space with them. Ben believes the playground would be a fresh, unbiased experience where play, socialization and education would be common ground for a new adventure!”

Imagine…

We read so many great essays when deciding the winners of the Together We Play™ contest, and want to share with you excerpts from the winning submissions. Here is part of what drew us in to learn more about the Sensory Garden Playground Initiative at the Wheaton Park District in Wheaton, Ill.

Imagine the sounds of happy children running, climbing, swinging and digging, while parents chat nearby. Imagine the relaxing atmosphere of unstructured play which encourages problem-solving and socialization among peers. Imagine entire families enjoying recreation together.

Now imagine the nightmare a park can be for families of children with sensory processing problems–too much noise, too much contact, no place to withdraw safely. Imagine the panic of parents when a child on sensory overload runs away, or the embarrassment when their child becomes overwhelmed and bites or hits another child. Imagine a family’s frustration at not being able to enjoy a park atmosphere because the facility isn’t safe and welcoming for a child with special emotional needs.

We imagined all this and more.

Then we saw a safely fenced play area with room for children to spread out, surrounded by a fitness trail for adults. We saw surfacing where wheeled devices move easily and equipment is designed to engage sight, hearing, smell, movement and touch. We saw places where a child can withdraw easily and safely, so that each one can learn to regulate his or her own sensory input. We saw a welcoming place where whole families can relax and engage and enjoy their time together.

We saw the need for a multi-community effort to build a world-class facility, and we are ready and willing to lead in making it a reality.

An amusement park for all

How often do you struggle to find family-friendly outings that offer fun activities…and also cater to everyone’s varying abilities? Families and vacationers near San Antonio, Texas, don’t have to look far. Morgan’s Wonderland, the world first ultra-accessible family fun park, provides a place where all ages and abilities can come together and play in a fun and safe environment.

Featured in the September 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, the article discusses how Morgan’s Wonderland started. Morgan Hartman’s parents dreamed of a place where everyone could play together, and so they held public forums so that other parents, inclusion advocates, therapists and more could discuss and brainstorm ideas for the project.

In 2010, the inclusive theme park opened it doors and offers play experiences including Landscape Structures playground equipment; a Sensory Village that mimics a city streetscape where visitors can buy groceries, go for a simulated drive through San Antonio and be on a newscast; an accessible carousel; a music garden and much more!

Accessible, but not inclusive

Many communities, schools and recreation centers strive to make playgrounds accessible for all. However, just because a playground is deemed accessible doesn’t mean that it’s inclusive. Rotary Miracle Playground in Dothan, Ala., recently experienced this. While their new playground was accessible, parents of children with disabilities felt the playground was unsafe because typically developing children didn’t know how to interact with those who had different abilities.

Education is vital to influencing inclusive play, which is why Dothan Leisure Services reached out to Shane’s Inspiration, a California-based national organization whose goal is to foster compassion through inclusive play. Leisure Services held their first “My Play Club” event on Saturday, Aug. 20, in which they invited children of all abilities to come and play together. Children with disabilities were paired up with typically developing “buddies,” and they played together on the playground, got their faces painted, and created arts and crafts.

According to the Dothan Eagle, Marnie Norris, director of programs at Shane’s Inspiration, said social barriers between children often disappear after interacting with each other. They begin to understand the differences, and any preconceived ideas or fears often disappear. Learn more about Shane’s Inspiration programming, and visit us on Facebook to see more photos of Dothan’s first “My Play Club.”