Of PLAYGROUNDS, PLAYTHINGS AND PLAYCOURTS™: AN EXPERIMENT IN THREE PARTS:
By Dr. Reeve R. Brenner, Founding President, The National Association for Recreational Equality (NARE – "Let's Play Fair")
An experiment: Take one "accessible playground" intended for integration, socialization and inclusion (IDEA and ADA) of all – including special populations. Let us posit the playground cost at $150,000 (as in Hagerstown MD).
B. Playthings: Budget $500 for a variety of playthings: toys, trains, scooters, dolls, games, art kits, puzzles and other fun items oriented to the same age group as the accessible playground. Place these in a like size area that is equally attractive and inviting.
C. Playcourts: Alongside of the playground and playthings place a third equally attractive ball-playing Playcourt™ (Bankshot Basketball, Bankshot Tennis) which costs $15,000 – or ten times less costly than the playground in a similar size area.
We have conducted this experiment at tradeshows and a variation at King Farm recreation park in Rockville MD.
What we have tentatively learned is that of all the three play/recreation facilities set up, the toys will get the most traffic from the five year children and under, particularly the toddlers and nursery school children the same age as in the playground guidelines. The children will play on an average of ten to twenty minutes. Longer, when there is no competition from a playground and a Playcourt like Bankshot. But the interaction with other kids – inclusion, socialization and integration – at the playthings arena are realized at the cheap. Let's leave aside who puts all the toys away and that the differently-able will not be crawling through the climbing tubes. (Wheelchair users are not climbers and large crib toys are short in appeal.) And, unlike playgrounds and playcourts, playtoys are home oriented; parks and recreation centers need not provide these to the community
The Hagerstown accessible playground is very attractive and stands a few yards from an already existing older, not unattractive playground (except by comparison to the new $150,000 playground alongside it).
Now Stevie, a nine-year old in a wheelchair, can roll up alongside the older playground and be marginalized or he can now roll up on a ramp inside the new accessible boundless playground and also be marginalized. Within or alongside the two structures, Stevie is excluded and reduced to staring at the enlarged cradle toys.
The other children under five will crawl and climb for up to 20 minutes on average. Then they – four, five and six year old and up - will depart for the play toys.
Now on to the Bankshot Playcourts. Children, beginning at the age of five will spend an hour, several hours or the rest of the day at a Bankshot court of approximately $15,000.
In our research, very few children returned to climb and crawl in a playground once they play the Bankshot court. Some of the younger children under 5 will return to the "cooler medium" of playthings but rarely to the playground. After they've played a single round of Bankshot they will spend the rest of the day at it. Bankshot sports were designed for school-age children and older. No surprise. Kids over five want to play ball. They will creep and climb through tubes somewhat longer if they have no alternative. Bankshot Playcourts offer ball playing with a difference. Here's why: Participants play alongside, not against one another.
That's the key to inclusion. The "playfields" – baseball, tennis, football, soccer, etc receive the lion's share of a community's budget but are entirely exclusionary by their very nature. There is running, aggression, offense and defense. Whereas speed, strength, size, stamina and gender are irrelevant at Bankshot "Total-Mix" Sports.
Bankshot Playcourts are more than accessible. They achieve inclusion, integration and socialization (IDEA) for the greatest age group of participants and for the maximum diversity of participants. Playgrounds logically empty out into Bankshot Playcourts for children ages four and five and up. Everyone, including the differently-able transition from marginalization to real inclusion.
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"We played at the Bankshot today. All the children had a great time - not just the 'sporty' ones! The teachers were commenting how good it was that so many kids could play at the same time. Thanks!!"Helen Cordova