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Playgrounds for All

An increasing number of communities are emphasizing the importance of inclusivity in their playground designs. This course provides specific strategies for designers, landscape architects, urban planners, and parks and recreation professionals who are considering inclusive playground designs. We’ll also teach you how to seamlessly integrate these inclusive design principles into your playground, ensuring that play is accessible to all.

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

Recognize playground activities that engage the senses.
Understand how stages of childhood play influence playground design.
Discuss methods to accommodate both neuro-typical children and children with disabilities.
Identify areas of the playground that may be inaccessible, and propose a solution.

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About this course

What will I learn?

In today’s age, designing a playground for all is more than being wheelchair accessible. While accessibility is certainly important, there are other factors of inclusion to consider like children with intellectual disabilities or sensory processing disorders. Furthermore, it’s also important to design a playground where all children, regardless of ability, can play together without limitations.

In this course, Mara Kaplan of Let Kids Play will teach you how to design a playground that includes all ages, abilities, and skill levels. In addition, she’ll go over five key focus areas of designing an inclusive playground.

  1. Provide Multi-Sensory Experiences: Provide activities that engage the five main senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell), as well as the vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems.
  2. Encourage All Children to Play: Offer a variety of equipment for multiple age groups and challenge levels. Also, group similar equipment together (i.e. swings, slides, spinners, etc.).
  3. Allow Greater Accessibility: For children in wheelchairs, ensure that there is unitary surfacing (i.e. pour in place rubber) with wide routes and smooth, even transitions off of equipment.
  4. Ensure Kids Don’t Get Overwhelmed: Place an orientation path around the perimeter of your playground, so children may observe an activity from a distance before joining in.
  5. Create Welcoming Social Environments: Include activities and equipment for each type of play, ranging from solitary play (i.e. activity panels) to cooperative play (i.e. group swings).

Who is my instructor?

Mara Kaplan is the Founder of Let Kids Play, a consulting firm that partners with manufacturers, communities, and parents to develop projects and strategies that provide optimal play opportunities for children.

Recognized nationally as an expert in designing play spaces, Mara is a committed advocate for inclusive play. As an educator and parent to a child with a disability, she holds a 25-year track record in designing, building, and managing both indoor and outdoor play environments. Her expertise also extends to play spaces and toys for children with and without disabilities.

In 1995, Mara, and five other parents raising children with disabilities, identified the significance of play in their children’s learning. They were determined to build a space where children of varying abilities could play together, leading to the founding of the Center for Creative Play. Mara served as its Executive Director for seven years before embarking on her journey with Let Kids Play.

Mara’s educational background includes a degree in elementary education and a minor in gifted education from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN). She later acquired her MBA, specializing in non-profit management, from Boston University.

Mara’s endeavors have earned her the Shore-Whitehill award for her efforts in enhancing the lives of people with special needs. Her work has been showcased in publications such as, the Wall Street Journal, Be the Change, and the Social Enterprise Reporter.

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.
Mara Kaplan, course instructor for "Playgrounds for All."

Mara Kaplan

Founder, Let Kids Play

Mara Kaplan is a nationally recognized expert in inclusive play, with 25 years of experience designing outdoor environments. She is the driving force behind Let Kids Play, a consulting firm that works with parents and communities to create accessible play spaces.

More Courses?

We’re glad that you enjoyed this course! If you’re looking to learn more about play, check out our full collection of course videos.

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Playgrounds 101

Don’t have time for a video? No problem! We have a blog full of articles that you can read at your convenience.

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