Playground Review: Artists at Play, Seattle, WA

This new and amazing park was designed by artists, paid for by the folks that opened the new Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, and has got to be the most accessible park I have ever seen for children with physical disabilities. It is loaded with musical elements, age-appropriate risk, and opportunities for cooperative play. It is a very progressive playground, and anyone considering adding a playground to their space needs to come visit this one first to get inspired. Here are some of the highlights I noticed:AAP Grown up benchesSitting spots for grown-ups are plentiful, varied, and in the shade. I think some playground designers don’t think about how many young children come to a playground with their elderly grandparents, pregnant moms, or injured caretakers in tow. Grown-ups deserve a place to sit where they can still supervise their young ones.AAP Toddler play area A separate climbing structure for younger children, which was clearly labeled with the suggested ages. To all playground designers: No, it is not always obvious to adults if a particular piece of equipment is appropriate for a child. Please stop hiding the recommended age in a tiny label on the backside of a post in the center of the climber. AAP Poetry disksPoetry engraved onto disks transform a random worthless hunk of concrete into an interesting feature.AAP tone tubesThis line of bright yellow tubes draws you over with curiosity, then you notice the child-height openings revealing a billiard ball in each tube. Pull back on the billiard ball, then release it to hear a loud tone. What note is that? Look down to find out! AAP singing swingsThere are only 3 swings on this playground, but they were very carefully chosen & designed. One is for children with severe physical disabilities resulting in reduced core muscles. Children are strapped into this swing like a roller coaster seat so they don’t fall out. The other single-seater swing is for typically developing children to ride by themselves. The third swing is essentially a suspended nest so multiple children can ride at once. I love the incorporation of cooperative play!AAP child quotesAs part of the design process, children from local groups/schools were involved. Some of these children offered quotes about sound, which were then incorporated into the stripes that run throughout the area. Engraved medallions were also added to enhance the look.AAP water stationA watering station includes drinking fountains of two different heights, separated enough for both of them to be used at the same time, and a water bottle filler in the center.AAP merry-go-roundPossible my favorite feature is the wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round. There is a slot for a wheelchair or stroller to drive into so the wheels won’t roll too far or side-to-side, then a safety bar drops down from behind. It’s a great design, and there is still plenty of space for non-wheeled children to ride. (Including on top, as the dad in the photo is doing.)AAP credits

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