The Importance of Playgrounds

38% of Canadian children with a disability almost never get physical exercise after school, compared to 10% of typically developing children (Physical and Health Education Canada, 2013)

Play is a critical part of physical, emotional, mental and social development for EVERY child.

Especially for children with disabilities, play is therapy – both physical and emotional. On the physical side, children’s muscles need to be exercised just like anyone else’s. And most importantly, on the emotional side, children need to interact and socialize with their peers.

For many children, the playground is one of the first places they get to interact independently with their peers.

Simply put, kids need to play with other kids. Yet for so many kids with disabilities, their days are spent with parents, doctors, nurses, therapists and other adults. But on fully inclusive playgrounds, children with disabilities can swing, slide and climb with their friends – as well as with their siblings and parents – which is literally something they may have never been able to do before.

Of course, the benefits of fully accessible playgrounds don’t stop with kids who have challenges. Children learn and grow by interacting with others who are in some ways different from them. Accessible playgrounds also allow parents/caregivers and other adults with disabilities to play with their children – something that’s often not possible on at a traditional playground.

Every way you look at it, fully accessible playgrounds help break social barriers, and become an environment where everyone learns to respect and understand each other. Those are the lessons that can last a lifetime.

Often underestimated, playgrounds promote free-play, foster self-determination, spark imagination and get children active for longer periods of time. Additionally, playgrounds give parents and caregivers the opportunities to relax, spend quality time with their children, and connect with other parents.

Playgrounds are an outlet for much needed physical activity among children of all ages. This generation is more sedentary than any generation in history – 24 hour, multiple channel television programming, gaming systems, and the explosion of digital devices are keeping our children from going outside to explore, run, and play.

Outdoor play is especially important for maintaining well-being for both children and adults. The sounds, visual images, and scents found in nature have been shown to reduce stress, stimulate the senses, and benefit all children, particularly those with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, behavioural issues, and mental illness.