by Joan Almon
There was a time when childhood was filled with hours of play—indoors and outdoors in neighborhoods, parks, and playgrounds. Yet one rarely saw children with disabilities outdoors playing with other children. Physical and social obstacles impeded their play. In recent decades, play has nearly disappeared from childhood in the U.S., but there is a growing movement to restore play. Now is the time to become active in making sure that is play for all children, including those with disabilities, and many people and groups are working toward this end.
An effective way of providing play opportunities in parks, zoos, schoolyards, and elsewhere is to have professional playworkers in place, as is done in the U.K. and other countries. They are especially helpful in modeling and supporting inclusive play. The design of play spaces also contributes to social, inclusive play. Creating spaces that can be used by children of different ages, both with and without disabilities, is a challenge, but one that can be met successfully. Finally, when neighborhoods and communities are alive with play, they become healthier, more active environments for adults as well as children.