Awesome Spot: An Inclusive Community Playground
By Ashley Stinson
Outside play is one of the most important things for growing children, who need physical activities to help develop their sense of balance, location, healthy exercise habits, and social interaction.
Playgrounds serve a vital role in giving children a place where they can run, hide, climb, swing, and interact with the world in a very physical way. For children with special needs, however, it can be difﬁcult to ﬁnd a play place which is easily accessible. Children who need assistance walking or who are in wheelchairs are often left out of the playground experience, and miss out on the social and physical development it offers. With Awesome Spot Playground on the way, that can change for the Modesto area.
For Rachel Laredo, the matter of playground accessibility is personal. Her second son was born with congenital deformities which limit his mobility, and though, now ten, he is able to get around on his own in a wheelchair, conventional playgrounds aren’t particularly accessible to children like him. When Laredo heard about the opening of a new accessibility-focused playground in Palo Alto and attended the opening with her family, it sparked a desire to bring that concept to her home in Modesto.
Awesome Spot Playground will be nature themed based on community suggestions, with three distinct areas themed after the savannah, the swamp, and the rainforest. Each area is speciﬁcally designed to help bolster the growth of children of different age groups, from two through ﬁve, then ﬁve through 12, and the transitional period between those two ranges.
There are a number of ﬁxtures that are different from standard playground equipment and offer a different experience for children. Kids can explore their musical side with built in auditory toys such as the Weenotes set—sets of steel pipes which can be struck to produce sounds—or the tuned drums. Climbable statues of lions and crocodiles provide children a fun way to clamber and exercise. Children can build their balance with standing spinners, or the integrated spinner, which is like a merry-go-round that allows for mobility-impaired children to board on their wheelchair so that they don’t miss out on the fun.
The playground is designed with inclusivity in mind, whether that’s inclusivity of physical accessibility, sensory accessibility, or of age. The paths are wide for easy accessibility for children with wheelchairs or walkers, and for their parents, grandparents, or guardians who may or may not need similar accommodations. Adults are encouraged to interact with their children on the equipment, and to explore the space together. Adults and children can partake in the musical nook together, play on the lion’s den slide, or sit in the expression swing, where young children can face their parents and swing together. The end goal is a play place where no one needs to feel left out.
Currently, no accessibility-focused playgrounds exist in the Central Valley. Awesome Spot Playground would change that in a big way. Currently, Awesome Spot Playground is raising funds to build the playground, which had been approved for Beyer Park, at the corner of Coffee and Sylvan.
Area businesses have a chance to chip in to bring this accessible, inclusive ﬁxture to our area. Construction is due to begin in Spring 2018, with the playground opening that summer.
If you are interested in helping bring this forward thinking space to life, you can find more information about donating at awesomespotplayground.com.