This post was sponsored by Landscape Structures as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
When you have kids of different ages, abilities and sensory needs, finding the perfect playground can be difficult. The standard park equipment doesn’t always account for children with special needs or encourage interactive play between different age groups. This is why Landscape Structures created their inclusive playgrounds. We visited one recently and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on it!
Last week was Fall break and the perfect opportunity to get all three kids out to the park together. We’ve finally been blessed with some cooler weather here in Arizona and we want to soak up as much of the outdoors as we can. It was quite the adventure and all three kids adored the inclusive playground we visited at Pioneer Park in Mesa.
My Issue With Regular Parks
We love the park and not every park causes a problem. But because I have twin toddlers and an older child I do face some issues:
- Safety. Elsie wants to play on the big kid equipment and her brothers follow where she goes. That means I spend a lot of time worrying about them playing on equipment which is not age appropriate and sometimes dangerous.
- Social Inclusion. The separated big and little kid park equipment does no encourage play between age groups. Where’s the fun in that? Kids pick up all sorts of social and development skills by playing together in mixed age groups. One of the many reasons we chose a Montessori school for our daughter.
- Accessibility. The Twins always want to play with the same things as their big sister but are often physically not able to reach or access them. This leads to “Mom, help!” and I spend all my time lifting one while the other pulls at my legs because they want a turn.
Beyond our personal issues, many parks are just not appropriate for children with special needs. You have to be pretty able bodied to access a regular swing, and stairs are just not an option for some kids. Sensory play is so important and even plays a part in our boys’ speech therapy.
The Twins suffer from Childhood Apraxia of Speech which muddles messages from the brain to the mouth muscles. Our therapist encourages us to use words with actions and sensory activities because the association with movement can help with muscle memory and verbal responses.
Below I have more info on inclusive parks and their benefits. But first I would love you to watch the video we made of our visit. It shows off the park and the atmosphere so much better than photographs:
What is an Inclusive Playground?
An inclusive playground allows all children to play together, encouraging social equity and inclusion. In our increasingly diverse communities, these life lessons are more important than ever. Landscape Structures are the creators of the inclusive play equipment at the park we visited and they believe inclusive play teaches leadership, persistence, support, and empathy.
Inclusive play addresses accessibility, developmental appropriateness, and sensory needs. It was interesting to see how the three of my kids reacted to the equipment because they have never been to a playground like this before. The Twins were so independent! I could see their excitement at being able to have fun with all the same equipment as their sister.
They were exhausted when we left because they were running up and down the ramps, climbing stairs, swinging on ropes and digging in the sand. They had a blast! Without a doubt, the park was encouraging physical development and the Twins told me all about the sensory roller slide when they got to the bottom… not that I understood most of it, but the excitement was clear!
Socially the Park was a pleasure to observe. Kids of all were ages playing together. I saw many older kids helping the Twins and enjoying their company. Often big kids feel a sense of ownership over the big kid equipment and their presence isn’t always welcome. Not here, all the equipment is designed for all kids!
How to Find an Inclusive Playground Near You
I really do believe Pioneer Park and Landscape Structures have set a precedent for all parks. We live in an age where inclusion is so important, and my kids have been begging me to take them back. They had so much fun together.
Landscape Structures have built playgrounds nation-wide. If you head to their website and choose ‘Visit a Playground’ at the top. You can search your zip code or city. Use the ‘solutions’ filter to choose ‘InclusivePlaygrounds‘.