Ribbon cutting planned for all-inclusive playground
Children of all abilities will soon be able to climb, swing and learn at a newly renovated, all-inclusive playground and new outdoor classroom at United Services for Children in Dardenne Prairie.
Crews are putting the finishing touches on the $158,000 project, scheduled to open with a ribbon cutting at 4 p.m., Monday, Aug. 13, at the Dardenne Prairie center, located at 2025 Hanley Road.
Children enrolled at United Services will sing two songs to celebrate the new playground. United Services Executive Director Denise Liebel and Site Director Leslie Tucker will say a few words about the project before cutting the ribbon, letting children experience the new equipment for the first time.
The 9,400-square-foot playground has a new poured-in-place rubberized surface that allows safe, easy access for children who use wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility devices. Contrasting colors on the surface help define space for children with visual disabilities.
The new playground equipment includes a curved balance beam, swing set with two adaptive swings, five-seat cycle circle, and a rock climbing tunnel.
The balance beam helps children learn coordination. The adaptive swings accommodate children who do not have the upper body strength to remain upright or hold onto a standard swing.
The cycle circle, similar to a merry-go-round, allows children to experience pedaling a bicycle without having to maintain their balance. The 4-foot-tall rock climbing tunnel helps kids build strength.
“We wanted new equipment to provide more variety for kids,” Tucker said. “The new pieces provide a variety of challenging motor activities that are accessible to children of varying abilities.”
A bridge leads kids from the playground to the new outdoor classroom, a 5,054-square-foot area divided into three sections. There is a gathering area with logs and tree stumps for children to climb. A covered stage area provides space for creative expression, such as acting, singing and reading aloud. A “messy materials” area, similar to a large sand box, is filled with different sensory materials to provide children with enhanced tactile experiences.
“Playing with different types of textures, interacting with the world around them, is an important part of sensory development for children,” Tucker said. “We are trying to create spaces that give all children the opportunity to develop skills while understanding and appreciating the natural world. Research shows that connecting with nature should be an integral part of children’s daily learning.”
Construction began June 4 on the project, financed through donations and grants. The largest contributions were a $15,600 grant from the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County and $13,000 from Cuivre River Electric’s Operation Round Up community outreach program.
United Services for Children enrolls approximately 300 children at its Dardenne Prairie location. The agency operates another center in St. Peters, located at 4140 Old Mill Parkway. In 2011, the agency enrolled more than 1,300 children at all locations combined.