Does your family get super excited when you hear your city is building a new park? A few years ago, my city got its first “inclusive playground” and I immediately went online to figure out what that meant.
What’s an Inclusive Playground?
Inclusive playgrounds are set up so that kids of all abilities are able to fully explore and enjoy the park.
You’ll find merry-go-rounds that are wheel-chair accessible and provide resistance when spinning.
And you’ll also see swings that feature a chest bar to keep kids safely in swings.
Plus, the whole playground is set on a thick rubber mat to minimize injuries.
But, it’s so much more than just accessibility. Inclusive play is also about providing play items for an array of ages.
That means parents can bring babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids to the same park and they will all find things to do there.
Through my research, one name kept popping up: Landscape Structures.
They are a leader in inclusive playgrounds, which help children develop physical, cognitive, sensory and social skills.
It’s through this inclusive play that Landscape Structures believe kids learn life lessons like leadership, persistence, support and empathy.
Where is Meadow Crest Playground?
Meadow Crest is located in Renton Highlands at 3000 NE 16th Street Renton, WA 98056.
I’ve been taking my kids to Meadow Crest since my oldest was crawling. It was the closest park to us where he could crawl around outside and not get too dirty.
We’ve been doing play dates here with our PEPS group for almost 4 years.
The entire park is fenced in, so we don’t worry about our kids running off. And it’s pretty to keep an eye on multiple kids.
What’s cool about Meadow Crest is that it’s also the home to an inclusive preschool program for kids of all abilities (Meadow Crest Early Learning Center.)
That’s because it was developed along with the Renton School District.
So when we play there, we often see kids who are different than our kids. My oldest is quite social and usually initiates some sort of game to play with the kids he meets at Meadow Crest.
As a parent, I like that because I want my kids to learn how to include all kinds of people in their play.
Inclusive playgrounds like Meadow Crest support social equity and inclusion, which is so important as we raise this next generation.
So, What Sets Meadow Crest Apart?
Meadow Crest is one of those parks where my kids ask me over and over again if we can play there.
That’s because this park is set up with 4 distinct areas:
TODDLER + PRESCHOOLER AREA
This area is geared for children ages 2-5. It focuses on early development to help develop balance, coordination, imagination, and social and musical skills.
Both my kids spend a lot of time here! There a huge caterpillar climbing structure that is perfect for preschoolers and a good challenge for toddlers.
This area is for kids ages 5-12. They can play on swings and climbing equipment, including an oval dish swing, large enough for several people to swing together.
My toddler loves swinging with his brother in the oval dish swing!
This section is for kids of all ages. It features a climbing wall and two slides, a sliding glider large enough for a wheelchair or two, and a large spinning ring for balance, with a diameter capable of including 8-10 people.
Finally, there’s the Nature Area. It’s back near the school and features a climbable bear cub, a little pathway, and a rainbow walkway.
The kids always end their play dates here in hopes that the Moms will keep talking and they can keep playing!
MEADOW CREST PARK HOURS
One thing to keep in mind is that since Meadow Crest playground is located at a school, it’s not open to the public during school hours.
During the school year, families can visit anytime after 4:30pm Monday-Thursday or all day Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
And it’s open every day during the summer.
October is Sensory Awareness Month
About 5 years ago, someone told me that their son had “sensory issues.” It was the first time I had ever heard about this.
Her son didn’t like loud noises, was particular about what he wore, couldn’t handle messy things like Play-Doh or fingerpaint, and the list went on and on.
Now that I’m a parent, I’ve been hearing more and more parents talk about their child’s sensory sensitivities.
In fact, there are kids in my son’s preschool who wear headphones to stay calm at school. And we have friends whose kids go to special preschools that specialize in helping kids figure out how to manage their sensory issues.
That’s why I’m glad that October is Sensory Awareness Month!
Let’s keep this in mind as we plan play dates and adventures with new friends!
Visit PlayLSI.com to find an inclusive playground near you!
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