Innovative Playground Spotlight: Thrive Playground

Innovative Playground Spotlight: Thrive Playground

 Thrive School Playground features innovative and inclusive play elements!
Thrive School Playground features innovative and inclusive play elements! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.

“How, exactly, is this playground inclusive for people with disabilities?” This comment was left on my Instagram page the day I shared the new playground at Thrive School in Edmonton. I replied with a comment that highlighted many of the features, but the best reply came from another follower, the mother of a child who uses a wheelchair. She wrote: “Look at all that rubber! From a parent of a child in a chair, I always get asked if I would like more accessible items at playgrounds, and obviously, I would, but without a foundation to get to those items, my child can’t play at all. The pour-in-place rubber removes that initial obstacle and gives her the independence to be with friends. Here for this!”

Thrive School has pour-in-place rubber surfacing through the entire playground. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.
Thrive School has pour-in-place rubber surfacing through the entire playground.


Probably the single most important thing that makes the Thrive School playground inclusive is the fact that it has pour-in-place rubber surfacing throughout. Not only does this allow children who use wheelchairs or mobility devices the chance to explore the entire playground with their friends – it also means that parents or caregivers who use chairs can also enjoy the park with their children.

The cone spinner merry-go-round is among the inclusive features at Thrive School.
The cone spinner merry-go-round is among the inclusive features at Thrive School. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.

Sensory features

Thrive School playground offers sensory features in spades! These include features with different textures, like the Mighty Descent slide, which is ridged. Rubber grip pads on the bright orange Unity Steppers feature raised bumps. Hanging panels within the Quito climber feature circular holes of different sizes. The saucer swings here are rope-based too.

Visual sensory features include translucent panels at the top of the Quito climber, that allow coloured light to shine in. A reflective mirror (called the Disco Spinner) sits atop a low post in the playground and is designed to teach kids about reflection and light. There are also images and tactile elements, like falling rain, bubbles, ice and even waves built into small circular frames around the posts of the infiNETs.

Sound features include a number of bells built into the Quito climber. Kids can climb to the top and ring one – but there is also one that can be accessed from the ground. A bead maze provides mental challenge while also offering audio stimulation.

Thrive elementary School playground has a ball maze on the main structure.
The ball maze is a fun sensory feature! Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.

Quiet spaces

Some children who are neurodiverse can become overwhelmed at a playground. Thrive School playground includes quiet spaces. There is a small rubber “hammock” at the base of the Quito climber, as well as a low hammock swing under the playground’s main structure. Both areas can offer space for children to step away from the action. The purple PlayCubes can offer a spot for hiding or relaxation – with all sides open to allow for visibility from every angle.

PlayCubes can offer quiet spaces away from the action.
PlayCubes can offer quiet spaces away from the action. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.


Inclusive play is also about meeting children where they’re at – and for some children that can include risky play. Risk is something offered by the Quito climber. It’s a unique rope climber that stands over 15 feet tall! The main structure of the playground has two orange-topped sections that have handrails on the outside and a single rope through the open “doorway”. My girls loved climbing up, hanging off and flipping all around these.

Thrive School playground also includes features that will really challenge kids.
The ropes across these open access points can offer a challenge for some kids. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.

The infiNETs may look like simple, 3-tiered rope webs, but there is so much more to them. Children can progress from crawling to walking and then running across the nets to access the main structure of the playground. The base net also features a platform with a circular hold built into it. This piece is set at wheelchair height and a child that can leave his or her chair can use the hold to transfer from chair to platform. Other features at this playground are also built at transfer height. Those include the cone spinner, the saucer and hammock swings. The base of the Quito climber and some of the Unity Steppers are also set at transfer height.

The unity nets at Thrive School are at Wheel Transfer height.
The base piece of the infiNETs is set at wheelchair-transfer height. Photo by Edmonton Playgrounds.

A place of pride

Mike McDermott, owner of Play Envy, the company that designed and built Thrive School playground, calls this his favourite playground that he’s built to date. The bright colours, the unique equipment, the inclusive design – all are reasons this playground is a source of pride for Mike and his team. Play Envy is on the cutting edge of innovative play and has opened some of the best playgrounds in Alberta and BC. Play Envy is rethinking the inclusive playground – you can read more about that, HERE.

Thrive Playground

  • Where: 10735 McQueen Road NW, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Parking: Street parking is available on site.
  • More info: on this playground HERE
Julia's Junction Playground is West Kelowna's first fully inclusive playground.
The curly slide is a showstopper at St. Edmund School!

Calgary's Cornerstone Meadows Heath Park features the amazing "Branch Out"!
Summerland Memorial Park is a bright and colourful playground in the heart of the Okanagan!

This post was written in partnership with Play Envy. Play Envy serves Alberta, B.C. and Yukon by creating inclusive spaces for fun and active living. I thank the team at Play Envy for trusting me to help tell this story.

Some of our favourite Play Envy playgrounds include: St. Edmund School; Cornerstone Meadows Heath Park in Calgary; Julia’s Junction in West Kelowna, BC and Summerland Memorial Park in Summerland, BC. Learn more about how Play Envy is rethinking playground design HERE.

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