The St. Louis Jewish Community Center, (“the J”) received a $300,000 grant from the Tilles Foundation to help build an inclusive, early-childhood playground at the J’s Marilyn Fox Building in Chesterfield. The playground was based on the concept of Universal Design—usable by the widest range of children with the widest range of abilities. This framework increases usability, safety, health and social participation within the play environment.
The J views the playground as an outdoor classroom. As such, it incorporates many different features which allow children to learn and master skills. Climbing structures and bike paths allow children to develop their gross motor skills. Water tables, painting easels, musical instruments and the garden allow children to work on fine motor and sensory skills. Those areas, along with the sand areas, help children learn science. Dramatic play areas allow children to develop their imaginations. Transfer decks and shallow steps improve access for kids with mobility impairments, while ramps allow children who use a wheelchair to join the fun.
Children with Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders find challenges with socialization, communication, play and imagination. Sensory play areas attract children and encourage exploration and discovery, and provide a "just-right" experience for those seeking sensory stimulation.
Inclusive playgrounds fundamentally change the nature of relationships between children with and without special needs. Inclusive play on the playground provides a common ground for those with disabilities and those without to bond over a common interest. When playgrounds are accessible for all children, those with and without disabilities learn to share, play and grow side-by-side.
This playground will be one of the few of its kind in the St. Louis Region and will serve as an educational outdoor space for hundreds of children in the J’s Early Childhood Program Day Camps, Family Center, and special events for local families who have children with disabilities. The J has been serving the Greater St. Louis Community since 1880, and currently provides fitness, cultural arts, social services and recreation for more than 70,000 residents of all ages. Through youth programming, the J has always believed in teaching every child based on his or her own abilities.
For more information on The St. Louis Jewish Community Center, please visit www.jccstl.org