The Children’s Home erects Pittsburgh’s newest inclusive playground

The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center wants everybody to have a good time.

On Aug. 18, the non-profit organization dedicated its new inclusive playground at 5324 Penn Ave. in Friendship.

The 5,500 square-foot recreational area boasts double-wide bridges and ramps for wheelchair access and numerous elements accessible for kids of all abilities and stages.

“This has been a dream for many years,” says Matt DeFrange, foundation and community relations manager. “Inclusive settings where all children can participate is paramount when it comes to play. It is how children develop socially, learn and explore.”

Early-childhood development professionals at the facility designed the playground, but kids and their families inspired most, if not all, of the features.

Adventure-seekers can go up a ramp, turn right and crawl, walk or roll through a 6-foot-tall, blue sensory tunnel filled with color, light and texture. In addition to physical activities that develop motor skills, kids can exercise their brains.

Musical features, such as a giant xylophone offer auditory, tactile and visual sensory skills that boost eye-hand coordination. All the equipment sits on a soft, smooth, rubberized surface designed to cushion falls and prevent injuries.

The Children’s Home is known for creating inclusive settings. For example, in Child’s Way, its childcare center for medically fragile children, classrooms are designed for wheelchair and adaptive equipment use. Lunches and snacks are prepared according to each child’s unique dietary restrictions. Pediatric nurses are on hand in classrooms so children may participate regardless of physical abilities. And teachers tailor education to a child’s developmental stage, rather than chronological age.

The Children’s Home project is a welcome addition to Pittsburgh’s growing collection of inclusive playgrounds. The city recently installed more than 90 adaptive swings throughout city playgrounds. The Dan Cohen Playground in Shadyside’s Mellon Park has a wheelchair swing and splash pad and in Squirrel Hill, The Children’s Institute built an inclusive playground.

Outside the city, the black and gold playgrounds in North Park and South Park are inclusive, as is the Clubhouse Playground in Upper St. Clair.