All kids have the same goal in mind when they hit the playground: swing, spin, slide…repeat. But having the perfect day at the park can be tough for some kids with different physical abilities. That’s why more playgrounds and spraygrounds around D.C. are being built with accessibility in mind, and classes are providing students of all cognitive and physical abilities the chance to get moving, make friends and have fun. Here are 13 options, divided by free playgrounds and fee-based play.
Photo: Anthony G. Reyes via flickr
At first glance, this 18.6-acre equipment-filled park looks like a colorful haven of climbing, swinging and sliding. But when it was founded in 2006, it was Virginia’s first park dedicated to ensuring that children of all abilities could play. For instance, it’s home to the state’s first Liberty Swing, which lets wheelchair users fly without having to transfer out of their chair. Other tweaks that make it accessible include ramps connecting structures, high-back swings, lower monkey bars and wider openings to play structures. There’s also a carousel that’s wheelchair-accessible, and a trackless train that makes its way around the park during the spring and summer. Note: Check website for train and carousel hours of operation.
Cost: Free; $2/carousel ride on weekdays, $3/ride on weekends on holidays, $3/train ride
Where: 6317 Georgetown Pike (McLean, Va)
Hadley’s Playground at Falls Road Local Park
This wheelchair-accessible playground has ramps in addition to steps that lead up to the play structures. There are also high-back swings. The playground is named for Hadley Kramm, whose mother formed a nonprofit organization in 1996 to create an accessible playground, and it was the first such space in Maryland when it opened in 1999.
Where: 12600 Falls Rd. (Potomac, Md)
Claude Moore Fun for All Playground
This colorful playground was designed with accessibility by children with disabilities in mind. It aims to promote physical, social and psychological development and “provides a place where children of differing abilities and their families can come together and have fun,” according to the website. It sits outside the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF), which offers fitness classes for all abilities and has an indoor leisure pool with a water slide, lazy river, vortex and zero-depth entry for those in wheelchairs.
Cost: Playground is free; WARF access is $8.50/nonresident adult, $6.50/nonresident child ages 3-17
Where: 800 Waterloo Rd. (Warrenton, Va)
When: Contact for details
Photo: Cunningham Recreation via flickr
Chessie’s BIG Backyard at Lee District Park
Open since 2017, this playground is fully accessible to children of all abilities. It has a padded rubber floor and ramps wide enough for wheelchairs. Geared toward kiddos ages 5-12, there are swings and slides designed to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. There’s also a wheelchair-accessible carousel. Additional play areas include a tree house – with ramps – and a sprayground.
Where: 6601 Telegraph Rd. (Franconia, Va)
This is the District’s first fully inclusive playground. It has ramps wide enough for wheelchairs to fit side by side in addition to wheelchair-accessible swings. The playground has a National Mall theme featuring landmarks such as the Capitol, White House, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. There are sensory elements such as finger mazes and talk tubes; an Omni Spinner, which is a high-backed merry-go-round; and a Sway Fun Glider, which fits two wheelchairs.
Where: 1701 Gales St., NE
Fairland Sports and Aquatics Complex Boundless Playground
A “boundless playground” is defined as one in which at least 70 percent is universally accessible, according to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. This playground features archaeological digs in sand for dinosaur bones and fossils in addition to the usual suspects such as climbing equipment.
Where: 13820/13950 Old Gunpowder Rd. (Laurel, Md)
We Rock the Spectrum
A new kid on the indoor play space block in Loudoun County, this gym stands out by focusing on children with special needs. It offers two levels of care: Respite and Break Time Care, which gives parents some time off, and One-to-One Attendant Care for children who need more constant supervision. Open play time gives infants through 13-year-olds access to all the gym equipment – XYZ – and an arts and crafts station
Cost: $12/hour for care, $14/child for open play
Where: 22446 Davis Dr., #127 (Sterling, Va)
Photo: Music and Motion at MYB
Music and Motion at Maryland Youth Ballet
Therapeutic dance instruction is available here to dancers with disabilities. With the assistance of an overhead track system and harnesses, dancers can move without the help of a partner. They’re suspended with a vest sling and attached to a traverse rail system in the ceiling in what the organization calls a “first of its kind application.” The program is open to children ages 4 and up, and each class is led by a dance instructor with support from a physical therapist and student volunteers.
Cost: 2017-18 prices were $100/10-week fall session, $150/15-week spring session
Where: 926 Ellsworth Dr. (Silver Spring, Md)
NOVA Cool Cats Special Hockey
Offering ice hockey to students with developmental challenges, this organization’s mission is to teach more than how to get a goal. It also encourages self-reliance, concentration, sharing and personal accountability.
Where: 926 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring
TOPSoccer at Vienna Youth Soccer
This is a program geared toward children ages 4-17 with physical and/or mental disabilities. Participants do soccer drills and noncompetitive games on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Each player is paired with one or two volunteer buddies who provide assistance, and nationally licensed coaches facilitate and run the practices.
Where: 1945 Lord Fairfax Rd. (Vienna, Va)
This therapeutic horseback riding program was founded in 1975 to provide safe instruction for children and adults with disabilities. Benefits include building confidence and strength so riders can sit and stand unassisted, walk independently and lengthen their attention spans. Instructors are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, and they work with more than 100 students a week, ranging in age from 3 to 60-plus.
Cost: $60/one-hour group lesson, $79.75/half-hour private lesson
Where: 9700 Georgetown Pike (Great Falls, Va)
Therapeutic Riding at the Potomac Horse Center
A certified therapeutic instructor registered with the North Atlantic Riding for the Handicapped Association and trained volunteers offer lessons to children with developmental, learning and physical disabilities.
Where: 14211 Quince Orchard Rd. (North Potomac, Md)
Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center
Established in 1985, this nonprofit provides equine-assisted therapy to people ages 4 and up with physical, educational, emotional and intellectual disabilities. Instructors are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, and they develop individualized lessons based on each rider’s needs. For instance, the program for children with physical challenges uses tools such as mounting ramps and harnesses, while the one for students with intellectual delays, anxiety or ADHS incorporates activities such as grooming to reinforce motor skills and relaxation.
Cost: Contact for details
Where: 16198 Silver Lake Rd. (Haymarket, Va)
Do you know of an inclusive playground or play class in your area? Share it in the comments below!