Playgrounds: Modify Play for Special Needs

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playgrounds modify play for special needs One thing I never want to take away from Rory is being a wild and crazy toddler.  I want her to be adventurous: run around, get dirty, be crazy, and have fun like most other toddlers her age.  The only problem is the 6 centimeter lift on her shoe sometimes makes things difficult for her (and for me).

Although Rory does not let the shoe hold her back, it causes me reticent.  The shoe is so tall that it often causes falls, bruises, scrapes, bumps, and other catastrophes.  I find my stomach sinking in my belly every time I see her take off in a sprint or jump around the house.  The realization has set in that I can’t keep her in my own little bubble for the rest of my life.  Rather than accept the bumps and bruises I have found myself modifying every day activities so that she can still enjoy herself, but just a bit safer.

Playgrounds are a big part of our weekly, if not daily, routine.  Rory loves them and there is no keeping her from climbing up and down and jumping all around the equipment.  When she was younger we would just hold hands the whole time on the playground, I would do everything she did, but now that she is getting older she wants to be independent and do things on her own.  I have to find ways that allow her to feel independent but also still protect her from injury.

special needs girl climbing playground

How to Modify Play for Special Needs Children

Playground Obstacle #1

Many of the new playgrounds have wonderful astroturf that is almost bouncy when you walk on it- which is really great to have when you have a sprinting toddler!   Most of the older parks have wood chips, sand or sticks which is really hard for her to walk in.  Whenever we encounter rough playground terrains I make sure that I walk everywhere with Rory so that if she does fall, I am right there to catch her.

With Rory’s new “independent” stage, some days she doesn’t want to hold hands and walk.  To avoid the upcoming fall, I will pretend to “walk” race her or “baby step” race her.  This way she isn’t running, she feels like she is still independent, and mommy is still within reach to catch her falling beauty and avoid injury.

Playground Obstacle #2

When she first attempted going down a slide, we quickly learned that her shoe created an issue.  The shoe often will catch on the slide and she will fall forward hitting her head on the slide.  Because of this, we have taught her to go down the slide on her tummy, just a little modification, but helps minimize injury.

Minimize injury is the key phrase.

Now that Rory is older, she notices older children going down slides in the sitting position, and in turn, wants to do so herself.  She attempted this the other day and fell, hard.  Although I am always waiting for her at the bottom of the slide, this was a big slide, and it left a big welt on her head.  So now we opt for playgrounds with small slides to mitigate seated slide slip-ups.  Many playgrounds we go to have two slides together so that Rory and I can go down the slides at the same time, that way if she falls I am right next to her to get her!

Playground Obstacle #3

Climbing is another issue we have.  Many of the playgrounds have little square holes cut out that kids can climb up to get to the big playground equipment.  These don’t seem to work well with the shoes.  Rory’s shoes are just too big to fit in them.

special needs playground collage

Rory is so determined to go up the obstacles she will do it with or without her shoe.  When she does attempt to go up these, I stay behind and cheer for her.  Little does she know my hands are right underneath that little body and often times my hand will act as a hole for her foot to push off of.

In a nut shell, playgrounds are hard for us, but Rory loves them.  For all you special needs mothers out there, try to find ways to give your child “independence” while still maintaining peace of mind.

For more posts on support and awareness for moms and siblings of special needs children, please take a moment to look at these other Quirky Momma posts:



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Havalyn About Havalyn

Havalyn is a stay at home mama with a beautiful girl with CFD (congenital femoral deficiency). She devotes her days to helping her grow and develop by doing crafts and activities together. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, anything artsy, working out, music, baking, and reading. Hava writes about her life at Rory Jane and Little Right Leg and tweets as @LittleRightLeg.

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