Archive for April, 2015

Inclusive Playgrounds Benefit All

April 16th, 2015 by

Inclusive PlaygroundsPlaygrounds are not only a ton of fun but also a crucial place for kids to develop physical, cognitive, and social skills while they play. Unfortunately, most playgrounds (especially older models) aren’t designed to accommodate children with physical or cognitive disabilities. Today, more communities are banding together to build inclusive playgrounds that are accessible to all children, including those with special needs.

What are inclusive playgrounds?
Inclusive playgrounds are play areas that accommodate children with a broad range of physical and cognitive abilities. In 2010, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was updated to include playgrounds. Now, any newly constructed or renovated public playgrounds must be accessible to those with disabilities, to provide all children the same outdoor play opportunities.

Where can I find an inclusive playground?
Moving forward, more and more communities will have inclusive playgrounds due to the new ADA requirements. But inclusive playgrounds come with a bigger price tag than their counterparts, and local governments are having a hard time finding the budget to build them. So frequently, parents and advocates are the ones pushing for these playgrounds to be built, and they’re doing the legwork to secure financing, as well. But for families of children with disabilities, waiting for their towns to update playgrounds isn’t good enough — they want to see their kids partaking in and enjoying the same fun as their able-bodied friends.

What kinds of features does an inclusive playground have?
Inclusive playgrounds are some of the best playgrounds around. They have all of the fun features of regular playgrounds, but may also have ramps for children who need physical assistance from a wheelchair or otherwise. Also, instead of mulch, the rubberized surface on an inclusive playground is smooth so that wheels won’t get stuck. Instead of classic swings, the swings of an inclusive playground provide back support to help children with muscular development issues.

Those are just the physical elements — inclusive playgrounds also have play features that foster emotional and cognitive development. Sensory, cognitive, and social skills are all part of the package, so kids who come to play can be stimulated in ways that match their level and ability.

The next time you’re at your local playground, take a look around and ask yourself: can all kids play and have fun there? If your playground needs an update, take charge! By banding together with your community and securing grants and donations, your town can revamp its local playground into one that’s even more awesome, where everyone can have fun and experience the benefits of outdoor play together.

Looking for fun and safe play equipment for your own backyard? Stop by one of our showrooms to see our wide range of swing sets, accessories, rubber mulch, and more!

The Lasting Benefits of Outdoor Play

April 2nd, 2015 by

Play Trend: Natural PlaygroundsWe know that playing outside is healthy for kids. Outdoor play gets kids moving, helps them reach important physical development milestones, and fosters creativity and curiosity. But new research suggests the benefits of playing outside go beyond exercise and fresh air.

A study in the journal Environment and Behavior found that being in nature actually makes us happy, and the way that we connect with nature differs from the way we connect with family and society. The study suggests that being in nature could be important for mental health, and is also important for conservation efforts, considering that those who spend time in nature are more likely to help protect it.

Happiness and increased eco-consciousness aren’t the only benefits of playing outdoors. A study in Pediatrics showed that children who played outside after school for 70 minutes a day had improved thinking skills compared with their less active peers. Additionally, even children who made small increases in their activity levels saw improvements in their thinking skills.

Considering these research developments, it seems counterintuitive that some schools have reduced physical education classes and recess time. So how can you and your kids spend more time outside? Here are a few ideas:

• Feed ducks at a nearby pond.
• Do a scavenger hunt outside.
Camp out in your back yard.
Make an obstacle course.
Try a game the whole neighborhood can play.
• Explore your yard and find new plants and animals.
• Decorate your bikes and take a group bike ride.
• Take the dog for a hike.
• In between homework assignments or chores, run into the yard for 10 minutes of unstructured play time.
Have a neighborhood basketball tournament.

Don’t worry about whether or not your child can reach 70 minutes of outdoor play every day. Even small increases in your child’s activity level and time in nature can have an impact. But when you can make the choice between your kids sitting still in front of a screen and getting outside for a play session, we hope you’ll choose the latter!

Ready to reap the benefits of outdoor play? Drop by one of our showrooms, and we can help you customize your very own Play N’ Learn playset for your back yard.