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Inclusion Clinic

Play is essential for everyone! Prepare yourself to discover a myriad of Unlimited Play playgrounds, where every aspect, from the selection of equipment to the surfacing design, is meticulously planned to foster five key principles of inclusion. Unlimited Play is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to building play spaces that invite children of all abilities to engage in outdoor play. This course delves into several Unlimited Play concepts aimed at assisting people of varying abilities.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to:

Discuss various methods to encourage parallel play in a playground design.
Understand how a ramped structure can accommodate individuals with a range of disabilities.
Recognize how a playground theme can amplify a child’s learning experience.
Illustrate how surfacing design can aid children with visual impairments, or those on the autism spectrum.

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About this course

What will I learn?

Designing an inclusive playground is more than installing a few wheelchair ramps. They also need to consider children with developmental disorders, such as autism. Ideally, inclusive playgrounds should offer a range of challenges and activities that appeal to everyone. But, how do you design a playground that’s fun and exciting, while still being inclusive?

In this course, Natalie Mackay and Jim Vollmer of Unlimited Play present examples of inclusive playgrounds across the U.S. In addition, they describe how inclusion can bring all children together, regardless of their ability.

  • Theming: Designing your playground around a theme lays the foundation for imagination. Especially for toddlers, themes tell them “how” they should play on the playground.
  • Parallel Play: Parallel play allows children of different skill levels to play together. For example, an obstacle course with two paths lets children in wheelchairs play alongside their peers.
  • Wheelchair Ramps: Inclusive playgrounds should include ramps for wheelchair users. Not only does this include entrances, but also ramps that go up to the very top of the playground.
  • Fencing: Children with autism don’t understand boundaries and tend to run-away during playtime. For this reason, fencing should be installed to provide a safe area to play in.
  • Sensory Play: Sensory play exists for each type of play. Active motion play (i.e. spinners) is great for cooperative play, while manipulative items (i.e. panels) are more suitable for solitary play.
  • Unitary Surfacing: Unitary surfacing includes pour in place rubber, rubber tiles, and artificial turf. It should also have large colour contrasts to differentiate activities and play areas.

Who is my instructor?

Natalie Mackay is the Founder and Executive Director of Unlimited Play, an award-winning non-profit organization that builds universally accessible playgrounds. A graduate of Brigham Young University’s Recreation Management program, Natalie now dedicates her life to teaching communities about the importance of play, especially for those with disabilities.

Founded in 2003, Unlimited Play is inspired by Natalie’s son, Zachary. Zachary suffers from a rare genetic central nervous system disease which requires him to use a wheelchair. Like all kids, Zachary loves to play. But when Natalie would take him to the park, she found that the playground only pointed out his limitations.

However, after visiting an accessible playground on the east coast, Natalie and her husband Todd began the process of building an accessible playground in their hometown. After teaming up with Zachary’s pediatric speech therapist, the idea for Unlimited Play was born. Zachary’s Playground in Lake St. Louis, MO opened in 2007.

Over the last two decades, Unlimited Play has built nearly 90 inclusive playgrounds across the U.S. and Canada. In addition to her role with Unlimited Play, Natalie has been the Summer Games Director for the Utah Special Olympics, and also sits on the advisory panel for the Missouri State Parks Department.

Who is this course for?

The great thing about our courses is that they’re designed for all levels of experience. Whether you’re a parent on a PAC planning your first playground, or a landscape architect with decades of experience, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, our courses offer a quick way to stay up to date with the most recent trends in playground design.

Our courses take into account multiple groups and audiences, all of whom have different needs for their playground. A few groups that will benefit from taking our courses include:

  • Parents: Parent volunteers will learn the most important aspects to consider when planning their playground project.
  • Teachers: Teachers will learn about the educational benefits of play and how to incorporate them on the playground.
  • Landscape Architects: Architects will learn innovative design ideas that they may use in their upcoming projects.
  • Parks & Recreation: Parks professionals will learn about recent advances in safety, inclusion, and sustainability.
  • Property Managers: Property managers will learn how playgrounds can attract families to live in their neighbourhood.
Natalie Mackay, course instructor for "Inclusion Clinic."

Natalie Mackay

Executive Director, Unlimited Play

Natalie Mackay is the Executive Director of Unlimited Play, a non-profit that builds universally accessible playgrounds. As the mother of a child with a disability, Natalie has dedicated her life to educating communities about the value of inclusive play.

More Courses?

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Playgrounds 101

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