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.

Guest Blog: Creating community

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Now that Stephani Victor, Paralympic gold medalist and Together We Play™ essay contest judge, has finished reading the essays, she’s even more in awe of those who submitted them.

It has truly been an honor and rewarding experience to contribute to this most generous award opportunity that I know will be embraced whole heartedly by the winners. I learned a lot through this process. I cried, I felt people’s loss and community need. I felt their frustration with failing budgets and poorly maintained or inaccessible playgrounds in existence. But most importantly, I felt their passion, their commitment and authentic motivation to bring people together for the purpose of play. I have thought a lot about “playing” and what that means in my life, how it has shaped my life and how we have a responsibility as a society to ensure everyone has an opportunity to “play.” It’s important that we provide a place for everyone to go that is safe, where they can explore, grow and develop their imaginations and, ultimately, their sense of self.

I am also deeply affected by the idea of inclusion and what that really means. And how damaging exclusion can be, even if it comes from well-meaning parents who want to exclude able-bodied children from playing with their child with special needs because they are trying to protect them. Ultimately, any exclusion has negative consequences for everyone. I am so committed to the exploration of inclusion–in life–for adults, too. I am really grateful to you for sharing your insights and educating me. I have mountains of respect for you and your teammates, who are so committed to making a difference in lives of so many. Lastly, I appreciated the reminder that each of us gets to create our community and if we would like things to change, we need to start with ourselves.

Supporting inclusive play

As many of you are aware, all of us at Landscape Structures are focused on providing playgrounds where all children and families can play together. While we’ve always created play experiences that are accessible and age appropriate, in 2010, we began focusing on providing a higher level of inclusive play. That includes providing sensory-stimulating playground components.
 
To continue our efforts in supporting truly inclusive playgrounds, we’ve introduced three new products–the Color Splash Panel™, Rain Sound Wheel Panel™ and Roller Table™. These products will welcome children of all abilities while developing gross motor skills, encouraging imaginative play and giving them a “just right” amount of sensory stimulation.
 

L to R: Rain Wheel Sound Panel, Roller Table and Color Splash Panel