This weekend, we were lucky enough to accompany our grandchildren to a playground in their town. Even before we unbuckled their car seat straps, it was obvious this was a beautiful park: new equipment, resilient rubber matting, bright primary colors.
Then I read the dedication at the entrance and this playground became more than beautiful; it was the manifestation of a dream.
This playground was created to honor the memory of a child who had died, a child with special needs. The swings and climbing apparatus were created to enable all children to share the joy of a day in the park. The swings have extra safety harnesses–which as a doting grandmother, I truly can appreciate. There are more ramps than there are steps. Make no mistake. This isn’t just accessible; it is a sanctuary where every child can play, where every child can just be a kid, without being defined or limited by labels, a place where all kids can play side by side.
My maternal side exulted in the obvious safety of this playground; a two year-old could successfully–and proudly– navigate the obstacles without too much intervention or adult angst. The humanist in me celebrated the message of quiet equality standing tall among the kid-sized slides and swings.
I left this playground with a deep and abiding sense that this is character education at its best. We can talk earnestly, honestly to kids about kindness and equality. We can model it in our daily interactions with them and with each other. We can deliver explicit lessons designed to counteract bullying. But this playground, funded by both private donations and by municipal contributions, is the ultimate example of giving kids chances to just be kids and to just play, practicing both large motor skills and respectful living.
The simple slogan on the sign? “Because every child deserves a place to play.” Inspiring.
If we can provide more opportunities like this for our kids, we can help them see beyond appearances. We can give them a new world where there are opportunities for all.