Inclusive Playground Spotlight: Thrive Playground
“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!”
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.
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 tower sits atop a low post in the playground. There are also images built into small circular frames around the posts of the playground.
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.
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.
Inclusive play is also about meeting children where they’re at – and for some children that can include risky play. It goes without saying that the Quito climber offers this. 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.
The Unity Nets may look like nothing more than 3 tiered rope webs, but there is so much more to them. Children can progress from crawling to walking 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 – including the cone spinner, the saucer and hammock swings, the base of the Quito climber and some of the Unity Steppers.
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, who are on the cutting edge of innovative play and have opened some of the best playgrounds in Alberta and BC. Play Envy is rethinking the inclusive playground – you can read more about that, HERE.
- Where: 10735 McQueen Road NW, Edmonton, Alberta
- Parking: Street parking is available on site.
- More info: on this playground HERE
This post was written in partnership with Play Envy, serving 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.