Jumpstart Playground – The Future of Inclusive Play

Aerial photo of jumpstart inclusive playground with ramps on red rubber surfacing with canadian tire logo

Written by Sonya Wilson

Rising from the corner of an underutilized expanse of prairie field and sitting on a carpet of brilliant red rubber, a playground shows off its bold, inclusive design. Its wide, grey ramps extend out in an invitation for all to join in the fun. Tactile, interactive play panels are interspersed along the ramps, which lead to slides, climbers, and a jumbo, multi-user Sway Fun™. This play space presents an opportunity for children using a mobility device to be in the thick of the action. It is a safe space for kids to run and roll together to play on a spinner, a We-saw™, or swings. Children can also find quiet places to self-regulate in the bustle of the playground or find the stimulation they need to help them integrate their experiences. This Jumpstart playground provides a Northern Alberta community with the opportunity to experience what the future of inclusion looks like.

The Jumpstart playground at  Clareview Community Recreation Centre in Northeast Edmonton is not only impressive in size, but in the scope of play options for children of all ages and abilities. Installed in the fall of 2020, it has become a landmark in an otherwise empty tract of field punctuated with a scattering of thin, young trees. Although there are some ball diamonds there, the area had primarily been used by people to cut across to access transit and the nearby Community Centre.

Thanks to the vision of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to create large-scale, inclusive playgrounds in every province and territory across Canada, there are now 10 inclusive playgrounds in cities across the country, including the one in Clareview. They are all part of Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project which started up in 2017. The project focuses on inclusive infrastructure and programming to promote access to play for kids of all abilities. 

Inclusive park design with red rubber surfacing
Shouldice Park Jumpstart Playground in Calgary, AB

This past summer, the playground proved to be “wildly successful” according to Matt Sloan, the Project Landscape Architect for the Clareview playground with the City of Edmonton. The City boldly embraced the opportunity to partner with Jumpstart and with some additional amenities they installed, like pathways linking the Rec. Centre to the park, enhanced lighting, benches, and a picnic shelter, the park has become a destination for families and a community hub. In fact, the playground was so well-used that the City had to temporarily add three additional litter receptacles! 

Jumpstart’s commitment to making play accessible for children of all abilities doesn’t end with the installation of the playground. They collaborate with local accessibility committees and groups who provide programming, which in Edmonton’s case, comes from the University of Alberta’s Steadward Centre of Personal & Physical Achievement. This past summer they launched an inclusive play program at the playground, guided by Steadward Centre Play Leaders. 

Programming ran twice a week for two hours on a drop-in basis, so participants could choose to come and go as they pleased. Instructors came with a plan or theme for the session that could be adapted depending on the group. Carrie Millar, Community Impact Coordinator with the Steadward Centre, commented that it was a really busy summer: “Some days we would have 20 participants of all abilities.” Some kids became “regulars” while there were always new faces showing up as well. Children who attend the Free2BMe programming at the Centre were also invited to come out to join in the fun. Millar added that, “playgrounds are free and always open, which gives these kids more opportunities to engage in play.”

Accessible Playground spinner with kids
Round and round, We-Go-Round™ and where we’ll stop, nobody knows!

A favourite game involved the placement of different coloured rubber circles on the ground around the We-Go-Round. The colours each represented a different action. The kids would get on the We-Go-Round and be spun around like they were part of a spinner on a board game. Depending on what colour circle they stopped at, they might have to scramble to find a new seat, get off the spinner and perform a specific action, or help push the spinner around. The speed and motion of the We-Go-Round, along with the unpredictability of what action they would have to do, was what made this game so popular.

The playground is the exclamation point on why accessibility and inclusion are so important. They’re a benefit to everyone.”

Eoghan Curran, Project Facilitator on the Clareview Playground Team at the City of Edmonton

The Steadward Centre, along with their collaborators, are putting the final touches on a lesson plan resource that will provide game ideas, tools, and information to use for putting together an engaging and fun experience for kids at a playground. The guide will include games matched to specific equipment at any Jumpstart playground!

Jumpstart worked with Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI), a forward-thinking playground manufacturer with a diverse team of consultants who make up their Inclusive Play Advisory Board. Each Board member contributes their unique perspective to the design of equipment and play spaces and adopts the Seven Principles of Universal Design to influence their design practice. Applying the principles of universal design and considering ease of access to a site ensures that the broadest range of users will be able to enjoy the amenities offered. Matt Sloan commented that, “the City of Edmonton is reaping the benefits of this partnership between Jumpstart and LSI.”

young girl in wheelchair being pushed up playground ramp by caregiver

When a playground in an underutilized field becomes the centre of a community, the activities, laughter, and connections that follow are inspiring. Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project is an unprecedented example of how inclusion works. The way kids play on the playground is dynamic and lively. It offers all kinds of different play opportunities, as well as opportunities for caregivers who use mobility devices to access the equipment and co-play with their children. Through their presence in cities across the country, these playgrounds will inspire more inclusive and accessible design in public spaces. Removing barriers to play ensures that there are equal opportunities for everyone to use the space, and that has proven to be “wildly successful”.

Learn More About Inclusive Playgrounds

Start Planning Your Inclusive Playground