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Creating Opportunities for Adaptive Recreation

While more and more new playgrounds are being designed with inclusivity in mind, many older playgrounds don’t have equipment and features to support adaptive play for all. If your favorite local playground is one of them, just know there are options for updating. One option that can be especially appealing is to retrofit the existing playstructure.

The process of retrofitting a playground involves a strategic blend of replacing, upgrading and adding new components. This approach allows you to address primary playground structures like slides and swings while rejuvenating other aspects like surfacing and shade. The beauty of retrofitting lies in its sustainability. By leveraging existing components, you not only save resources but also create more environmentally conscious playgrounds.

Moreover, retrofitting is a cost-effective alternative to full playground replacements. It offers flexibility to cater to various budgets and funding levels, which is crucial for many community organizations. But perhaps the most significant advantage is that retrofit projects can often be completed swiftly, minimizing the time a playground is closed.

In today’s world, inclusivity is at the heart of playground design. True inclusivity goes beyond accessibility. Retrofitting allows you to integrate a plethora of features that cater to different abilities and types of play.

1. Musical Play: Imagine the joy of children and adults of all ages coming together through music-themed elements. Musical play not only stimulates the senses but also offers inclusivity—it’s an activity that doesn’t require transferring out of mobility devices, making it an excellent choice for all abilities.

2. Scavenger Hunts: Interactive “seek and find” panels breathe fresh air into your playground designs. They promote teamwork and engagement, encouraging kids of all abilities to participate in a fun, collective experience.

3. Story Trails: Storytelling isn’t just about words; it’s about movement and engagement. Story trails that unfold across different areas of the playground not only enhance language skills but also encourage play and exploration, ensuring no child is left out.

4. Vibrant Colors: A fresh paint job can transform the look of a playground while making it more inclusive. Bright, contrasting colors are essential for those with low vision or color deficiencies. They enhance depth perception and infuse the playground with new energy.

5. Shade and Shelter: Integrating more shade into your design is a thoughtful way to consider the needs of people with disabilities. Not only does it provide respite from the sun for all visitors, but it’s a crucial amenity for those on specific medications or with heightened sensitivity to heat.

6. Enhanced Signage: Retrofitting can introduce signage that transcends language barriers. Universal symbols allow individuals who are nonverbal to express their desires or needs, making the playground more inclusive for everyone. It’s a helpful tool for children who may struggle to communicate in noisy playgrounds.

Retrofitting opens a world of possibilities to create play areas that cater to a diverse community. Whether you’re working with older spaces or modern designs, retrofitting offers the opportunity to make your playground projects more responsive and inclusive. Incorporate the above innovative ideas into your designs, and you’ll be on your way to creating playgrounds that truly embrace the principles of inclusivity, sustainability and fun for all. Learn more about retrofit by contacting your local Landscape Structures playground consultant at

Published on October 19, 2023