Children of all abilities catered for in CHW play areas
When Alexander goes to his local playground, he enjoys the sound of musical chimes, the feeling of water, being taken out of his wheelchair, and sitting on the grass.
The seven-year-old has limited mobility and is both vision and hearing impaired, meaning sensory features and wheelchair access enable him to play with other children.
Having a playground that children of all abilities can enjoy is paramount to families like ours," Alexander's mum Jennifer said.
"It's an opportunity to have a dialogue with other members of our community and other children and normalise that we all have differences, and that's ok."
"Playgrounds are really beautiful spaces to do that in."
Jennifer is among the numerous family voices who provided valuable input in designing the three play areas outside The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW). They include the ‘KidsPark' within the hospital's forecourt, and a play area and sensory garden near the new multi-storey car park (MSCP) – all part of the $619 million redevelopment project to transform kids’ health.
Clinical Program Director Sandra Pengilly said the river-themed play areas will feature accessible equipment, pathways and seating areas for children using mobility aids.
The vision is that children of all abilities can connect in some capacity with components of the parks," said Clinical Program Director Sandra Pengilly.
"The top things are universal and community access, and children learning and developing through play."
"It will be a place of real wonderment and discovery,” said Sandra.
Each play space has a unique design and layout. ‘KidsPark' is opposite an Aboriginal garden and includes climbing walls and moveable play equipment. The playground adjacent to the MSCP has swings and balancing animals, with the nearby sensory garden offering kinetic music equipment and outdoor instruments.
Network Manager Health Promotion Sue Wicks said the areas provide a space for creative play while enhancing education and skill-building.
It's a place for children and parents to get outside the hospital building to interact and relax," said Network Manager Health Promotion Sue Wicks.
"(Families) might have several different appointments throughout the day, so it's an opportunity for people to have something different from their day-to-day experience."
Parent groups, clinicians and members of the local Aboriginal community were consulted during the planning process, helping ensure the final designs include appropriate shade, signage, wheelchair access and sensory equipment.
"I'm hoping for an inclusive space - that children who are both sick and healthy and their siblings can feel like they can interact, have fun, play and explore and connect," said Jennifer.
The play areas will open in stages from next year, ahead of the completion of the Paediatric Services Building in 2025.
For more information about the redevelopment go to: https://westmeadkidsredevelopment.health.nsw.gov.au