Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Giving All Kids a "Voice" on the Playground

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Giving All Kids a "Voice" on the Playground

Article excerpt

This article presents installment one of a three-part series that will feature the importance of play for children of all abilities. EP is pleased to partner with the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) for this series.

It's a familiar scene in communities around the country. Schools begin to let out for the summer and the neighborhood playgrounds that have largely lain dormant throughout the winter and early spring begin to hum with the sound of activity. Kids and parents, now with a need to fill up the daytime with activities, begin to frequent their backyard play spaces and community parks and playgrounds with regularity; kids make new friends--both imaginary and real--to join them in their summer fun.

But behind these idyllic scenes lie vital interaction that kids are taking part in all summer while playing outside. Albert Einstein called play "the highest form of research," because through play, kids are constantly learning critical lessons that will guide their daily interactions in adulthood. They learn lessons about how to take risks, understand and solve problems, contemplate consequences, and how to treat others--friends and strangers alike.

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Over the past several decades, a substantial library of research has been collected on the exceptional educational value that kids receive from outdoor, free play. What was once thought of as a way for children to wind down before bedtime or blow off steam while at school is now known to be a key factor in a child's intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development. This holds equally true for children with disabilities, whose learning process can sometimes be different depending on the disability, but who have the right to play along with typically-abled children.

Tom Norquist, past president of the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) notes that "the best way to help ensure healthy, active, well-adjusted adults is to help kids form habits early in life that nurture healthy, active, well-adjusted children."

This article discusses the benefits of providing universally designed playgrounds for all children and demonstrates the many benefits to all. Research has shown play--preferably outdoor, free play - to have a variety of benefits in a child's life. These benefits include social and intellectual learning and physical benefits. All of these benefits are critical to all children and are discussed in greater detail here. But before those benefits can be realized, parents and communities must make sure that the play spaces they build are inclusive to all children.

Kids learn important lessons about inclusion on the playground. Playgrounds--when constructed safely and correctly--are an early tool in helping kids learn critical core values. Universally designed playgrounds contribute to development of positive attitudes and enhanced skills that children take with them into their adulthood.

Play is equally a developmental tool for kids with disabilities. Depriving all children of free play opportunities will result in the failure to learn critical life skills.

Building universally designed playgrounds is a necessity for all children's social learning. Many communities and playground manufacturers are working to do this (see sidebar case history on next page) and are making a positive difference in all kids' lives by committing to universally designed playgrounds.

All kids benefit from play and from being outdoors to experience nature and the environment. …

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