One month ago

Children find joy in inclusive playspaces

Now the weather is warming up, why not head to your nearest inclusive playspace. Parent blogger Susan Williams explores Livvi’s Place in Ryde and finds something for everyone to enjoy.

If you visit the Allambie Heights or Ryde Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) centres you will have seen the wonderful sensory outdoor areas on offer. And you might be interested to learn that there are an increasing number of inclusive playspaces around NSW and in other States for you and the kids to explore?

There are many parks dotted through our towns and suburbs but not all meet the needs of the community. One of my son’s favourites was created by the Touched by Olivia Foundation, a registered charity that is assisting communities to create special places that encourage and invite social inclusion through play.

This Australian foundation was formed in 2006 by the Perkins family, following the loss of their baby daughter Olivia, to a rare disease. With a strategy aimed at creating healthier and happier lives for children, the foundation’s core focus centres on creating inclusive playspaces across Australia.

Inclusive playspace explained

But what is an inclusive playspace? According to the foundation’s website, “It’s not about installing a liberty swing and a few ramps up to a slippery slide. It means designing and creating custom-made, accessible and intergenerational play equipment and amenities, incorporating accessible pathways, passive areas, sensory and tactile play and artworks, graduated challenges, points of recognition and visual cues, fencing, accessible parking and bus drop-off zones.”

Livvi’s Place at Yamble Reserve in Ryde is a fantastic example of an inclusive playspace.

My family was introduced to this special location through the monthly CPA playgroup at Ryde which is sometimes held there.

From the moment we entered the space I knew it was different; there is a real balance between tranquillity and excitement.

Traditional play equipment is combined with purpose-built elements including a wheelchair accessible roundabout and a moulded bucket seat flying fox. Picture Communication Symbols are provided (at the xylophone and sandpit) and a Livvi’s Place Ryde Flipbook is available to download to teach children about what to expect when visiting.

Children with physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities are provided themed zones designed to stimulate (musical playground instruments), calm (spiral pole artwork with animal sculptures) and allow sensory interest (huge sandpit with a water pump, distorting mirror).

A fully accessible amenities block includes both child and adult change tables but a Master Locksmiths Access Key (MLAK) is required. The playspace is fenced and includes a barbeque area with wheelchair accessible picnic tables undercover.

My three-year-old son, Alex, has had physiotherapy at Livvi’s Place Ryde and often requests to go to the “sand park” as he affectionately calls it due to the huge sandpit. As a carer and parent, I highly recommend Livvi’s Place Ryde to you and your family.

Other Livvi’s Place locations in NSW include Campbelltown, Five Dock, Forster, Jindabyne, Merimbula, Port Macquarie, The Hills and Wollongong. Other NSW locations opening soon include Bankstown, Cronulla, Gunnedah, Mollymook, Taree, Wagga, Warragamba and Wyong.

The Ryde playgroup meets on the last Thursday of the month between 10am and noon.

Open to children aged under 5 years who receive services from CPA, their family and siblings, the playgroup is held Ryde Centre, 3a Smalls Road, Ryde.

For information about the Ryde playgroup go here.

Visit the Touched by Olivia Foundation webpage for more information and other locations around Australia.

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Enjoy good times and laughs with like-minded people and activities to make you put your hands in the air and say ‘Yes, I can do it!’