MILWAUKEE — Having a place to play is crucial for kids. But for differently abled children, it can be difficult to find a playground they can easily access. That's why Penfield Children's Center decided to upgrade its playground.
"In order to make sure that everybody has equal access, we start this very young, infancy age," said Penfield President Christine Holmes.
Penfield provides early education as well as health and wellness services to over 1,500 children. Holmes said it's important that children of all abilities are in the classroom together and learning how to play together.
“This helps to normalize some of these kinds of activities for kids that don’t have physical access. And it’s really important because we include children of all abilities in our classrooms and in our playground settings, both indoors and out," Holmes said.
The new playground at the center features various sensory areas including wood chips, grass, rubberized flooring, cement and sand. It also has accessible play equipment, like a merry go 'round that children with wheel chairs can use.
Childcare teacher Hector Ortega said the kids were excited when they finally got to explore the new playground, and the merry go 'round is one of the most popular play areas.
"They love that thing! They're always telling me to spin fast, but I can't spin too fast or else they'll go flying off. But yeah, they have a really good time on that for sure," Ortega said. "Especially the kids with disabilities, they need to be able to play and feel the same as the other kids."
Ortega hopes to see more playgrounds like this in neighborhoods and at schools.
Nationwide, there are 6.7 million school-aged children with disabilities, but Holmes said there are only a few inclusive playgrounds in the Milwaukee area.
And while inclusive playgrounds are so important for differently abled kids, they have benefits for all kids.
"For the children who are typically developing, I see children everyday, my peers, that look different than I do, who maybe have different abilities than I do, who maybe have to wear equipment that I don't have. But as they go out into the world, they don't think that it's odd. It's part of their everyday life," Holmes said.